RENO, Nev. — First-year UNLV head coach Barry Odom will be the first to tell you how much winning a rivalry game means. Odom has kept no secret about his desire to beat Reno in Year 1, spending the off-season driving home the importance of this game specifically to his team.
Odom has gone above and beyond to ingratiate himself and his team into the Las Vegas community and it hasn’t gone unnoticed, but even he knows that a loss against Reno in their current state would be borderline unforgiveable.
“You feel it in the city. Not just with our sport, but with all of the UNLV sports. And then you got everything else in the city”, Odom said following the victory. “We have to do our part. The guys feed off of that, there’s no doubt about it.”
UNR entered the game on a 15-game losing streak, not having won a game since September 3rd, 2022. It’s a low point typically reserved for UNLV’s football program as opposed to Reno’s.
And yet, UNLV is in the midst of a renaissance. They entered Saturday’s Battle of Nevada with a 4-1 record, covering in all 5 games.
Still, it would all be for naught if they couldn’t handle UNR.
How it happened
UNLV started the fireworks almost immediately, taking a 7-0 lead after Jayden Maiava hit Ricky White for a 59-yard touchdown completion on just their second play from scrimmage.
After forcing another stop, the Rebels grinded it out on their next possession. A 10 play, 77-yard touchdown drive was capped off by a one-yard score from junior halfback Donavyn Lester. It was the first of three touchdowns on the day for the William and Mary transfer. The Rebels led 14-0 after ten minutes of action.
UNR had something to say themselves on their ensuing possession, staying afloat as Brendon Lewis found a wide open Dalevon Campbell for a 43-yard touchdown.
Despite struggling to gain any sort of footing before the home-run play, the Wolfpack were suddenly in striking distance, pulling it back to 14-7 after one quarter.
Early in the second quarter, Lester ran for his second touchdown. This time from 16-yards out, it completed yet another quick-hitting drive that pushed the Rebel lead back to two scores, 21-7.
The last bit of fireworks in the first half came from some of the usual suspects, as Maiava uncorked and hit Ricky White again for an 82-yard touchdown pass. As Jose Pizano’s fourth extra point went through the uprights, UNLV stretched their lead to 28-7 as halftime approached.
Once the intermission was over, The Donavyn Lester Show went right back to work. On UNLV’s second play of the second half, Lester turned on the burners for a 66-yard score that stretched the UNLV lead to four touchdowns. It was Lesters third of the game, and the Rebels now lead 35-7 exactly one minute into the second half.
Needless to say, the rest of the game was a formality. It took UNLV just 31 minutes of football to completely wipe out a Wolfpack. The final score was 45-27, and even that reads as much closer than the game felt.
Lewis and Sean Dollars each ran for a touchdown in the second half to at least dignify Reno’s efforts slightly. A garbage time bomb from Lewis to Isaah Crocker landed for a 55-yard touchdown completion with just under two minutes left in the game.
Jose Pizano added a field goal for UNLV in the third quarter, continuing to provide a crucial spark for the Rebels at kicker. Vincent Davis Jr. also joined the scoring party with a 9-yard touchdown rush at the 3:37 mark of the fourth quarter.
“We’ll enjoy this one until we get home and then it’s on to the next, but I’m so happy for our team.” Odom said post-game.
“I don’t want to confuse the message. I’m thrilled for our program to be 5-1, 2-0 in the conference, but that’s right where UNLV should be.”
UNLV QB Jayden Maiva finished the game 20/25 passing with 257 yards and a touchdown. WR Ricky White had 8 catches on 8 targets, racking up 174 yards and two touchdowns. HB Donavyn Lester led UNLV in rushing with 99 yards and 3 touchdowns.
UNLV moves to 5-1 with the win, their best start to a season in 39 years. They’ve reached 40 points four games in a row and in five of the last six games.
UNLV returns home to Allegiant Stadium next week, squaring off with Colorado State at 4 p.m. PDT on Silver State Sports Network and the Mountain West app.