LAS VEGAS–These Rebels are a highly motivated bunch. They didn’t need any bulletin board material to come into Saturday’s Ninth Island Showdown ready to represent Las Vegas.
And yet, that’s what they got. Hawai’i defensive coordinator Jacob Yoro called out UNLV and their fanbase, joking that Hawai’i would have more fans in Allegiant Stadium than the Rebels would.
Whether or not UNLV played with those comments on their mind is something only they know, but their performance Saturday certainly indicated a chip on their shoulder. Las Vegas had their back too. The announced attendance for the game was 25,328, the most for a conference game in the Allegiant Stadium era. The stands were mostly Rebel red.
“It’s got to be our city” Coach Barry Odom said post-game. “We won’t stop until our home-field advantage is overwhelming for anyone (who comes here).”
Doug Brumfield was an active participant in warmups, and even went out with the captains for the coin toss. This made it a bit of a surprise to see the freshman Jayden Maiava trot out on the first drive for UNLV.
Coach Odom hadn’t budged on Brumfield’s status as starting quarterback, making it clear he was the guy when he was healthy. With UNLV’s bye next week, it’s likely Odom and staff were just being cautious with Brumfield’s progress.
The Rebels didn’t take long getting on the board. Maiava hit running back Vincent Davis Jr. on a short route in open field, with Davis doing most of the work for a 16-yard score. The rest of the opening quarter went quietly, with UNLV holding a 7-0 lead.
UNLV kicker Jose Pizano buried a season long 52-yard field goal to put the Rebel’s up 10-0 on their first drive of the second quarter. Pizano finished the game 3-for-3 on field goal attempts, making him 11-for-12 on the year. The Missouri State transfer has been of great value to UNLV through five games.
Hawai’i kicker Matthew Shipley and Pizano traded field goals to make the score 13-3. With just under five minutes remaining in the half, LSU transfer Zavier Carter forced a strip-sack on Hawai’i quarterback Brayden Schager. UNLV recovered the ball at Hawai’i’s 36-yard line.
Just a few moments later, Courtney Reese ran it in for a 4-yard touchdown. UNLV went to the locker room at halftime with a 20-3 lead.
After dueling three-and-outs by the Rebels and the ‘Bows, the pyro machine in Allegiant Stadium’s south end-zone started to get a little more use. Schager found his receiver Steven McBride wide open for a 51-yard score that breathed life into Hawai’i’s crowd and sideline. The closest defender was in Henderson. Shipley’s extra point cut the UNLV lead down to 20-10.
UNLV’s run game responded the only way they know how. With flash and efficiency. 8 plays and 75-yards later, Courtney Reese found pay dirt on a 21-yard touchdown run. The Rebels again found themselves up 17, this time with a 27-10 lead.
Hawai’i and UNLV again traded field goals to set the score at 30-13. Schager then uncorked for Hawai’i’s second long touchdown completion of the night, this time to freshman Alex Perry. With 12:47 remaining in the game Hawai’i was back within 10 points, trailing 30-20.
Hawai’i would have no answer the rest of the game. A 3-yard touchdown reception from Jacob De Jesus courtesy of Maiava and a 22-yard touchdown run by Donavyn Lester late into the fourth quarter gave UNLV an insurmountable 44-20 lead.
With 1:27 left in the game, UNLV’s Quentin Molten ripped the ball out of wide receiver Karsyn Pupunu’s hands in the endzone for a highlight-reel interception to send the Rebels into the victory formation.
Jayden Maiava finished 11-for-21 passing with 142 yards and two touchdowns. Brayden Schager finished 22-for-35 passing with three touchdowns and an interception for Hawaii.
Hawai’i’s Steven McBride led all receivers with six receptions for 180 yards and a touchdown. He averaged a whopping 30-yards per reception. Ricky White tallied five grabs for 56 yards and a touchdown for UNLV.
Donavyn Lester led all rushers with 12 carries for 98 yards and a touchdown. Courtney Reese ran for 35-yards and two touchdowns on six attempts. Freshman sensation Jai’den “Jet” Thomas added 65 yards on 12 carries.
Six different Rebels finished with 30+ rushing yards. Six different UNLV Rebels also finished with a reception.
UNLV’s defense forced six sacks in the win.
UNLV is on bye next week. They head to Reno on Oct. 14th to engage in battle with the team up north. The Battle for the Fremont Cannon will be broadcast live on CBSSN at 2 p.m. PDT.