Aside from giving up 14 straight points in the second quarter, the UNLV defense was pretty much lights out for the vast majority of the team’s most recent win to pick up a big-time conference win.
With big Mountain West implications lingering, the Rebels pulled away from the Wyoming Cowboys, 34-14, Saturday, Nov. 11 from Allegiant Stadium. Now with eight wins through the first 10 games of the year, UNLV has now reached the feat for the first time since 2000.
“What a win,” head coach Barry Odom said. “Eight and two and still in the hunt [for] the conference championship.”
One more home game remains on the schedule for the Rebels in Week 13 where the program will go for a perfect record at home. Currently sitting with a 5-0 standing inside of Allegiant Stadium, UNLV has now won six straight and nine of its last 11 dating back to last season.
Next week, the team will travel to Colorado Springs for a matchup against the 8-1 Air Force Falcons. That game is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 18 with kickoff set for 12:30 p.m.
“The one-day mentality, the one-rep mentality for us seems to work,” Odom said. “Now that’ll be the next challenge to get our team ready to go play away from home against a really good opponent in Air Force.”
Wyoming scored 14 points in the span of 11 minutes and 20 seconds in the second quarter to trim the once 21-point lead to a single score and temporarily zap the energy out of the stadium.
“The second quarter I blame a lot of that on me,” junior linebacker Jackson Woodard said. “I had a lot of chances to tackle the quarterback on some of his runs. Some could say I could get a little faster, I think I just need to take better angles.”
Just before halftime it appeared the Cowboys were headed for a game-tying score after back-to-back big pickups through the air on the first two plays of the drive. After picking up 66 yards through the air, junior defensive back Cameron Oliver quickly killed the drive with an interception at the goal line.
“Biggest play of the game,” Woodard said. “It completely changed the game. Cam’s made so many spectacular plays like that in other games but also in practice, he practices that way.”
That counted as the second Rebel takeaway on the night after senior linebacker Elijah Shelton forced a fumble in the first quarter with senior defensive lineman Darius Johnson finishing the play with the recovery.
Oliver also had a crucial pass breakup on a third down in the third quarter with the team still up seven.
The defense pitched a shutout in the second half led by Woodard’s game-high 11 tackles.
“Coach had an emphasis on ‘One play at a time,’” he said. “I think we lost that a little bit in the second quarter. We just said in the locker room, ‘We know what we can do.’”
UNLV built that early lead on the strength of three rushing touchdowns in the first quarter. It’s first drive started with a bang after freshman quarterback Jayden Maiava found junior receiver Ricky White III for 56 yards on the second play of the eventual scoring drive.
White posted 144 yards on eight receptions, both game-highs, including some vital grabs down-the-stretch. He now has over 1,000 yards this season, becoming the first Rebel player to do so since 2013.
Maiava finished off the first drive with a 10-yard rushing touchdown to give the home team a 7-0 lead. Later in the quarter, he’d rack up his second scrambling score of the night which also set a career-high for the Las Vegas native.
Freshman running back Jai’Den Thomas scored his ninth touchdown of the game on the team’s next drive to put UNLV up three scores.
After the offense stalled in the second quarter, Maiava polished off a glittering drive in the third quarter that consisted of three third down conversions on the way to the team’s first points since the first quarter.
He went 17-for-24 with 232 yards and a touchdown pass.
Late in the fourth quarter, Maiava would pick up a hard 10 yards while facing a 3rd and 8. On the next third down, he found White for another new set of downs leading to the second Jose Pizano field goal of the night.
As a team, the Rebels went 9-of-15 on third downs including 7-for-10 in the second half.
“It was big,” Odom said. “To end the first half the way we did knowing that we got the ball in the second half and then the way that our offense executed [...] the team battled, the team responded.”