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Rebels can’t capture elusive first MW title, trounced by 24 points


UNLV freshman quarterback looks for space against the Boise State defense. Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

Experience played key in a bigtime blowout victory for the Boise State Broncos over the UNLV Rebels in the Mountain West Football Championship game on Saturday.


Boise State came into Allegiant Stadium and downed UNLV, 44-20, to win the Mountain West and punch a ticket to this year’s LA Bowl at SoFi Stadium. This would’ve been the first time in program history that the Rebels would have claimed a Mountain West Football Championship.


“Looking back, we had a good season,” junior linebacker Jackson Woodard said. “We won enough games to get us to the championship but once we’re here we have to win that one.”


Now sitting with a 9-4 overall record at the conclusion of the regular season, the Rebels will have to await its bowl game announcement. Once announced, the program will be preparing to play in its first bowl game in a decade.


“Our focus before this game was to win this game,” Woodard said. “That’s all we cared about. But not looking at the bowl game, we’re excited but we wanted this one real bad.”


Head coach Barry Odom’s nine wins so far in his first season as leader of the program ranks as the best since Harvey Hyde picked up 11 wins in the 1984 season.


“I hate that we didn’t win the championship today,” he said. “It will drive and motivate me for my career.”

Rebels senior linebacker Fred Thompkins crosses the goal line as part of his pick-six in the first half of the Mountain West Football Championship. Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

Back-to-back drives with turnovers in the second quarter really turned a rather tit-for-tat game on its ear. After a pick-six by senior linebacker Fred Thompkins tied the game at 14 apiece, the second tie of the game to that point, everything began to slowly unravel.


A flea-flicker from Boise State went for 57 yards and a touchdown to regain the lead for the visitors. That scoring drive from the Broncos elapsed all of one minute and 17 seconds.


On the ensuing drive, freshman quarterback Jayden Maiava fumbled the ball away to the opposing defense with a chance to tie the game with a touchdown response. One play later, Boise State quarterback Taylen Green broke a 70-yard run for a touchdown and a two-score lead, which was the largest of the game at that point. By then, the Broncos had mustered up 28 points in the first 17-plus minutes of the game.


“There wasn’t really [a] change,” junior receiver Ricky White III said. “I think as a unit we could’ve been better on third downs. Running the ball, passing the ball, as a unit, I definitely feel like we could’ve been better at every position.”


To compound matters, Maiava was intercepted on his next trip out which led to more points for the opponent. This time a Boise State field goal stretched the lead to 17 points.

UNLV freshman quarterback Jayden Maiava looks to pitch the ball during the team's 24-point loss to Boise State. Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

This season, UNLV fell behind by 17 or more points in five games and held a 2-3 overall record in those situations including back-to-back losses.


Maiava would finish the game 15-for-29 with 166 passing yards and two interceptions. It’s the third time this season he’s gone without a touchdown pass in a start. Earlier this week, Maiava was named the conference’s Freshman of the Year.


“He’ll learn,” Odom said. “We’ll all learn from the good and not so good and he will. He’s a tremendous competitor, he’s banged up a little bit but he’ll rebound.”


Junior quarterback Doug Brumfield played the majority of the fourth quarter in relief, going 3-for-9 for 51 yards but was sacked two times. Brumfield has been out of the starting lineup since late September.


UNLV’s defense couldn’t get out of its own way in the early part of the game as the team fell behind right from the jump. Through the first 15 minutes, the program racked up four penalties for 39 yards on the way to seven flags for 61 yards.

Broncos' quarterback Taylen Green delivers a pass during his 200-plus yard passing performance against the Rebels. Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

Green opened the game 3-for-3 for 80 yards through the air. He’d finish with a 80% completion mark for 226 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.


However, even with Green’s success both of the Broncos’ first two scores of the day came on running plays.


As a team, Boise State rushed for 299 yards and three touchdowns. Over the last four games the team has averaged 198 rushing yards per contest with all four games ending in victories.


On the other hand, UNLV’s defense has had significant struggles defending the run over the last three weeks, allowing 292 yards per outing for a grand total of 876 yards allowed in those three games. Additionally, the team lost two of the three latest meetings against MW opponents including back-to-back losses for the first time this season.


“We’ve got to wrap up,” Woodard said. “We’ve got to make tackles. We were there in position and it starts with me. I’ve got to make those tackles.”


The Rebel defense didn’t force its first punt of the game until just before halftime. A first half that saw both teams combined for 48 points which is the most combined points in a half in the Mountain West Football Championship.


More trouble that would not be averted came in the fourth quarter as the UNLV defense would cough up 13 more points to allow the most points in a single game this season.


“We had captured momentum a couple of times,” Odom said. “But then we never could keep it on our sideline and it's such a powerful force when you’ve got it on your side and you don’t want to give it away.


“It never felt like – after 7-7 and then they scored – it never really felt like we could capture it back for any length of time.”

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