UNLV is bowl-eligible for the first time in a decade after a game-winning field goal from senior kicker Jose Pizano as time expired on Homecoming Night.
The Rebels won its fifth straight game Saturday, Oct. 21 with a 25-23 win over the Colorado State Rams from Allegiant Stadium. While becoming bowl-eligible for the first time since 2013, the program also improved to 4-0 at home.
Prior to this outcome, UNLV had scored 40 or more points in all five wins this season including four straight.
“I will always welcome a win [whether it's] by 50 or by 1,” head coach Barry Odom said. “It’s hard to win, to find a way to get that win was difficult and every play mattered.”
Now, the Rebels are 6-1 through the first seven games of the year while sporting a 3-0 Mountain West record. According to Odom, nobody in the locker room is surprised about the monumental moment.
“Six and one opens up a lot of opportunities,” Odom said. “Three and [zero] in the conference. I said it last week and I’ll say it again, ‘It’s right where we should be.’
“That’s the standard each year, we’re going to be in bowl season. Now the pursuit is to go win a championship. That’s our focus and our mindset.”
Up next, the program will travel to California for a Saturday, Oct. 28 matchup with the Fresno State Bulldogs. A kickoff time has yet to be set.
Pizano was responsible for 19 of the team’s 25 points including 18 points on field goals which included the game-winning boot.
“[It was] nothing too different,” he said. “Just going through the motions, my regular routine and trusting the hold and the snapper as well. I can’t do it without them. I just trusted myself and said, ‘Let’s go win this game.’”
That field goal from the Utah native counted as the fourth lead change of the fourth quarter. Pizano went 6-for-6 on field goal tries which set a new career-high and school record in makes and attempts. He also made a long of 46 yards on the day.
This season, Pizano is perfect on extra points (27-for-27) and has only missed one field goal this year (18-for-19).
En route to the win, UNLV had gone down by 10 points for the third time this season resulting in the program’s second win. The other win was a 17-point comeback against Vanderbilt earlier this season.
Freshman quarterback Jayden Maiava recorded his first 300-yard passing game after overcoming a shaky start to the contest. On the team’s opening drive of the game, the Liberty product was the recipient of a strip sack resulting in the Rebels’ lone turnover of the game.
With just 44 seconds left in regulation, Maiava drove UNLV down the field and into position for Pizano’s game-winning field goal try.
“We’re going to have to win games in the fourth quarter,” Odom said. “That’s what this league is, it’s a really good conference.”
Junior receiver Jacob De Jesus had himself a day, racking up 263 all-purpose yards including 120 receiving yards on nine catches. Fellow receiver Ricky White III added nine receptions of his own for 74 yards.
De Jesus and White had back-to-back big catches on the game-winning drive to take the team down to the CSU 10-yard line.
“I just feel like we were clicking on all cylinders,” De Jesus said. “I think our chemistry that we developed in the spring game and over fall camp and during practice throughout all the weeks we’ve practiced together is a really good chemistry. Not just with [Maiava] but with all of the quarterbacks.”
The Rebel defense stood tall when needed including a final stand that forced the Rams to take a field goal attempt from 55 yards out. This came on the heels of Colorado State scoring 10 points in the fourth quarter after being held scoreless for the first 26-plus minutes of the second half.
“I was saying on the sidelines, ‘All we need is one person to step up,’” linebacker Jackson Woodard said. “A lot of people stepped up today that we needed to step up and make those plays and that’s exactly what we needed.”
Senior defensive back Jaxen Turner was responsible for the lone turnover created by the defense with a third quarter interception. He now has three interceptions on the year which leads the program.
In total, UNLV has 15 takeaways on the year versus six giveaways the other way.