Not only was it back to winning for UNLV’s football program this weekend, it was back to winning in dominant fashion.
The Rebels dog walked the New Mexico Lobos, 56-14, Saturday, Nov. 4 from University Stadium to pick up their seventh win through the first nine games of the year. Moreover, the program has a 3-1 record in the Mountain West.
In the two weeks leading up to this win, UNLV had been limited to 24.5 points per outing. After this outcome, the team has now scored 40 or more points in six of the team’s seven wins while putting up a season-high 56 points against New Mexico.
“I’m really excited about what our team did in starting fast,” head coach Barry Odom said. “We knew that was going to be really important to get in this game. We wanted to control it early.
“We talked about being on the road, bouncing back from last week in an environment that we don’t have any control over other than how we go play one snap at a time.”
The win ends the brief two-game road trip for the Rebels as the team went 1-1 in the process. So far this season, UNLV is 3-2 in road games.
Now, Odom’s group will return home for a key conference matchup against Wyoming Friday, Nov. 10 from Allegiant Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:45 p.m.
“We’ve got one on Friday night,” Odom said. “[I’m] really excited about a win, huge to get that next win.”
Two games removed from his first 300-yard passing game, freshman quarterback Jayden Maiava turned in his first three-touchdown outing of his young collegiate career. Statistically speaking, the Liberty High School posted a quarterback rating 242.5 more than 45 points higher than his previous career-high.
It started early for Maiava as he struck for six points on the first play from scrimmage in the form of a 30-yard touchdown pass to junior receiver Ricky White III for his fifth score of the season. In the third quarter, White would pick up his sixth touchdown catch of the year on a 58-yard bomb from Maiava.
White finished with a game-high 165 yards on eight catches which was also a game-high.
“Obviously, it was a terrific start on offense,” Odom said. “Then the defense complimented that side of the ball.”
Earlier in the third quarter, senior receiver Dominic Gicinto hauled in a 43-yard touchdown pass, becoming the fifth UNLV player to score on the day. Ultimately, six different players would cross the goal line.
The Rebels were aided by 164 total rushing yards as a team to go along with five touchdowns on the ground including three in the second quarter during a stretch of 21 straight points for the visitors.
The balanced offensive attack allowed Odom and company to get some reps for backup quarterback Cameron Friel after he took over in the fourth quarter. On his first drive, Friel found the end zone from a yard out on a quarterback keeper.
Maiava left the game with 247 passing yards on 13-of-18 passing with three touchdowns. Friel never threw the football and his scoring rush would be his lone rushing attempt.
UNLV took advantage of great field position for the vast majority of the night beginning early in the first quarter. Returner Jacob De Jesus took the first punt of the game from New Mexico back to the home team’s 30-yard line after a 59 yard return by the junior college transfer.
A quarter later, De Jesus put the Rebels in more prime position with a 53-yard punt return that placed the offense at the Lobos’ 21-yard line. He’d finish 112 punt return yards while failing to record a catch on offense.
De Jesus’ performance was contagious as backup returner DeAngelo Irvin Jr. raced out for a 49-yard punt return to set up the drive that ended with Friel’s short touchdown run.
“The return game was huge in special teams,” Odom said. “We knew we had an advantage there but we wanted to be able to take control of it in the return game.”
With the short drives yielding points, UNLV only held the ball for just under 23 minutes while New Mexico maintained possession for more than 37 minutes.
The Rebel defense did force four fumbles while coming away with two to win the turnover battle, 2-0.