LAS VEGAS–Friday’s match up with Wyoming was already on the short list of the biggest games in UNLV football’s program history. After the dud the school’s beloved basketball team put fans through on Wednesday, a positive outcome in this game became even more important in keeping the good graces of Rebel Nation.
UNLV won by a final score of 31-14 despite nearly blowing a 21 point first quarter lead. It was a game that could have easily ended up like the nightmare in Fresno a few weeks ago, but this time Barry Odom and company kept the levees intact for UNLV and held on with a strong second half effort.
How it happened
UNLV came out of the gates like gangbusters, forcing a punt on Wyoming’s opening drive to start the game before Jayden Maiava found Ricky White for 56-yard catch-and-run completion on just the Rebels second play from scrimmage. On the ensuing play, Maiava took the RPO into the end zone himself to open the scoring for UNLV as they went ahead 7-0 early.
The Wyoming offense had an even worse go of it their second time around. On the third play of the drive, QB Andrew Peasley was stripped and UNLV recovered the fumble inside of Wyoming’s 30-yard line.
Seven plays and nearly three minutes later, Maiava ran for his second touchdown of the game. UNLV now led 14-0 before we even reached the halfway point of the opening quarter.
UNLV’s defense continued their torrid start to the game on Wyoming’s third possession by forcing a quick three-and-out.
Threatening to go up three scores in the first quarter, UNLV went on another methodical touchdown march led by offensive coordinator Brennan Marion’s play-calling prowess. Seven plays and 67 yards later, Jai’den “Jett” Thomas ran for his team-leading ninth rushing touchdown of the season. UNLV now led 21-0 with nearly four and a half minutes remaining in the first quarter.
The rest of the first half didn’t go as smoothly for the Rebels. UNLV crossed into Wyoming territory for the fourth time early in the second quarter, but the momentum made a decisive shift after Jayden Maiava fumbled the snap and it was recovered by Wyoming near midfield.
Three plays later, Andrew Peasley took a QB keeper 32-yards for a touchdown to put Wyoming on the board and give them a much needed answer.
The Wyoming contingent had an impressive number of representatives at Allegiant Stadium, but they had been relatively silent up to that point.
That quickly changed after Wyoming forced a UNLV four-and-out with their backs pinned once again deep on their own side of the field. The Pokes then led a methodical 11-play, six minute scoring drive of their own to make the score 21-14, capped off by a one-yard touchdown run by Wyatt Wieland.
Now down 21-7, the Pokes then forced a UNLV four-and-out after stuffing Maiava on the RPO on fourth and one.
Remember how I said this one was going the way of the Fresno incident? Yeah.
The Wyoming defense came up with another crucial stop, and than led a nine-play, 76 yard drive down the field as the second half wound down that looked certain to end in the game-tying touchdown and extra-point.
That was until Cam Oliver stepped up and made the biggest play of the season thus far for the Rebels, intercepting Peasley’s pass at the goal line.
Wyoming didn’t score for the remainder of the game.
UNLV added some insurance in the second half with a 13 play, 76-yard drive that ended with a touchdown pass from Maiava to a wide open Kaleo Ballungay for the touchdown. Jose Pizano also added two fourth quarter field goals.
Ricky White crossed the 1,000 yard mark on the season for UNLV in the third quarter, becoming the first Rebel to reach the mark in 10 years.
White finished with 8 receptions for 144 yards.
Quarterback Jayden Maiva led UNLV in rushing with 44 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries. Maiava also completed 17/24 passes for 232 yards and a touchdown.
UNLV takes on Mountain West leader leader Air Force next week in Colorado Springs in a game that will likely determine which team plays for the championship game. Kick-off is set for 12:30 p.m. PST on CBS Sports Network.