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UNLV rolls over Hawaii to win third straight

UNLV celebrates with the Golden Pineapple after beating Hawaii in the Ninth Island Showdown. Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

The UNLV Rebels continued their offensive showcase this weekend with a 44-20 win over the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors in the Ninth Island Showdown at Allegiant Stadium.

The Rebels have now won three straight games and sit at 4-1 as they head into their bye week.

“I’m so happy for our team to win that game,” head coach Barry Odom said. “We talked all week about how important this game was not only to our team but to our university and to Las Vegas.”

UNLV won the game just as it has its three others this season, with a strong rushing attack and turnover creation on defense.

What also helped was an early lead. The Rebels scored the only points of the first quarter when quarterback Jayden Maiava found running back Vincent Davis Jr. for a 16-yard touchdown.

In the second, the Rebels kept piling on. Two Jose Pizano field goals and a Courtney Reese rushing touchdown with 45 seconds left in the half gave UNLV a 20-3 advantage at the break.

Rebels running back Courtney Reese smiles while crossing the goal line in the team's 44-20 win over the Rainbow Warriors. Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

“We needed to start fast,” Odom said. “I thought there were elements of that in which we did, but we’re still not there yet.”

Fast or not, the play of all three phases was noticeably superior to Hawaii in the game.

“When we can play well in all three phases together, we’ve got an opportunity to continue to play winning ball,” Odom said.

Offensively, UNLV out-rushed Hawaii, 307-46, with Reese and fellow running back Donavyn Lester combined for three scores on the ground.

Maiava was just 11-for-21 for 142 yards but threw two touchdowns with no turnovers to perfectly complement the ground attack.

“[Our offense] is very elite,” Lester said. “I just enjoy being around the team, and the players on the team we just try and build each other up every day. We’ve got a bunch of selfless guys who don’t care who gets the ball.”

That selflessness has allowed great variety within the offense. Seven different players have now scored touchdowns for this team, who have scored 40 points in every game except against Michigan, the nation’s top-scoring defense.

On the other side of the ball, UNLV created two turnovers, both by Hawaii quarterback Brayden Schager. He fumbled near the end of the first half, then threw a late-game interception on the goal line to seal the game for the Rebels.

UNLV defensive captain Jackson Woodard delivers a huge hit to Hawaii quarterback Brayden Schager. Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

“Last year we lost to them so we went into this year with a chip on our shoulder,” UNLV defensive back Johnathan Baldwin said.

Baldwin noted that new defensive coordinator Mike Scherer’s scheme allows the team to “play fast,” adding Scherer’s motto is “run and hit.”

UNLV will have some downtime before their next game as they have a bye week upcoming. The rest will be important, as the Battle for the Fremont Cannon takes place in two weeks' time in Reno vs the Nevada Wolfpack.

Despite the name, UNLV won’t necessarily just be using the bye week for rest.

Rebels defensive back Johnathan Baldwin heads off the field after helping force a fourth down. Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

“The bye week for us will be structured,” Odom said. “We’re going to practice. We’ll be on the field for four days. We’ll get a lot of really good work… we’re going to flip the page quickly and get on to our next opponent.”

The win for UNLV puts them in the same position they found themselves last year at 4-1.

With a revamped offense and rather dominant wins under their belt, however, there is optimism that this team will thrive where last year’s team faltered.

The 2022 team finished just 5-7 and failed to clinch a berth in a bowl game.

At the same point this year, let’s see if the Rebels seize the opportunity, and continue toward that six-win goal they’ve chased for the last ten seasons.


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