The impressive start for the UNLV Rebels continued this past weekend as the team picked up its fourth win in five games to open the year.
UNLV beat New Mexico, 31-20, in come-from-behind fashion Friday Sept. 30 from Allegiant Stadium in a game that was sealed by a last-minute pick-six by sophomore defensive back Cameron Oliver.
“How ‘bout the Rebels baby? Whoo,” head coach Marcus Arroyo said. “I’m still fired up. That’s such a huge deal for our group. Just a character-building win, I mean, that’s the bottom line.”
The win means a 3-0 start at Allegiant Stadium for the Rebels after going 2-8 in their first two seasons in the new building.
In addition, the team maintained its first-place position in the Mountain West West division at 4-1 overall.
UNLV will return to action Friday, Oct. 7 against San Jose State with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m.
“That’s just the way it’s going to go now,” Arroyo said when asked about getting different teams’ best shot as division leaders. “At the end of the day, that’s what’s going to happen. We’re not going to sneak up on anybody.”
The Rebels’ defense held the Lobos to just six points in the last 45 minutes of the game. While Oliver’s second interception of the season sealed the game for the home team, it was the second pick of the night for that unit.
Sophomore defensive back Jordyn Morgan ended a New Mexico drive in the second quarter with his second interception of the year.
UNLV’s defense also recorded a sack while the special teams unit forced a missed field goal in the third quarter.
The first quarter, however, presented a lot of issues for the Rebels as the team fell behind 14-0 after the first 15 minutes. UNLV would fall behind by as many as 17-0 in this one.
“The base the coaches teach us is being able to control the chaos,” senior defensive lineman Adam Plant Jr. said. “Everything’s not going to be peachy and fine. When those big moments come and it’s time to step up, I have to be ready and that’s for all of us. And that’s how coach prepares us so when those moments do come, it’s second nature to us.”
Plant Jr. recorded five tackles including a solo tackle for loss and an assisted one. He racked up 14 total tackle-for-loss yards.
Senior inside linebacker Austin Ajiake led the team with 12 tackles including three total tackles for loss.
On the offensive side of the ball, UNLV came in without two of its top receivers in junior Kyle Williams and senior Jeff Weimer, who missed the game due to injury.
As a result, junior receiver Senika McKie and sophomore receiver Kalvin Souders stepped up and led the team in receiving.
“To have leaders on your team go down – guys like Kyle, guys like Jeff – that’s the unfortunate part about football,” Arroyo said. “You’re going to go through the season and you’re going to have some bumps and bruises. To have guys work their way into a role is something you start telling guys early on at camp.”
McKie led the team with 72 receiving yards on five catches while Souders was next in line with 57 yards on four receptions.
Sophomore receiver Ricky White led the team with six receptions for 43 yards. He also had a game-tying two-point conversion in the third quarter.
UNLV didn’t score a touchdown until the second half but was aided by three first half field goals from sixth-year senior Daniel Gutierrez. He is now 24-for-24 on the year and is now five behind former Rebel Sergio Aguayo for second in program history for field goals made.
Both UNLV touchdowns were scored on the ground beginning with Sophomore Doug Brumfield who scored his fifth rushing touchdown of the year in the third quarter.
Brumfield picked up 19 yards on eight carries. He was also involved in a nasty collision near the Rebel sideline that was later ruled a late hit.
“There was just some stuff going on that doesn’t have a place in this game and that situation,” Arroyo said. “To get in there and try to break it up and get caught right in the middle of it, that’s kind of part of this deal sometimes.”
Plenty of pushing and shoving ensued on the sideline immediately following that hit including Arroyo being in the middle of it all.
“It was great to see my teammates, fans pumped ready to go,” Brumfield said. “I’m fine, it’s part of the game. You get hit everyday, you know.”
Brumfield was able to return to his feet and complete the game. He finished with 233 passing yards on 24-for-33 passing and an interception. It’s his first game this season without a passing touchdown.
Junior running back Aidan Robbins scored the other rushing score on the night for his eighth touchdown of the year. His fourth quarter touchdown gave the Rebels their first lead of the game.
“It just speaks a lot to the culture and these guys,” Arroyo said. “And their belief in each other. We’ve had our hands on this group for a full calendar year last year. One year, to get a culture built, [get] guys to feel us and to teach and get that DNA in our group.”