UNLV Football was defeated by the Kansas Jayhawks at the Guaranteed Rate Bowl 49-36 at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona on Dec. 26 to make its record 9-5.
The Rebels played great in the first and third quarter against the Jayhawks, out scoring them 21-7 in both quarters combined.
UNLV started out both the first and second half with momentum, but the Jayhawks played at the backend of each half out, scoring the Rebels 42-15 combined in the second and fourth quarters.
“We didn’t play well enough,” UNLV Head Coach Barry Odom said. “[Kansas] made plays when we didn’t.”
Jayden Maiava finished the game completing 24-of-35 of his passes for 291 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions.
“[Maiava] made some huge throws, guys made some big time catches,” Odom said. “I think he can be an elite quarterback in college football.”
Maiava’s top targets for the game were Jacob De Jesus and Ricky White. De Jesus finished the game with eight catches for 95 yards and White caught seven passes for 97 yards and a touchdown.
De Jesus was also the leading rusher for the Rebels, totaling 40 yards and a touchdown on six carries.
“[De Jesus] did outstanding. We were going into the game in preparation. We knew we were thin at that spot and For him to be able to step in and play the way he did I’m not surprised by his performance,” Odom said. “I think offensively he did a great job on building the plan for this week.”
On the defensive side of the ball, both Cameron Oliver and Jaxen Turner kept UNLV in the game combining for three interceptions.
Kansas quarterback Jason Bean was able to overcome the interceptions, passing for 449 yards and a career high six touchdowns against the Rebels.
Bean’s top targets included both Luke Grimm and Lawrence Arnold, who combined for all six of Bean’s touchdowns through the air and 292 receiving yards.
“We knew they were talented in a lot of positions on their offense and their receivers were extremely well,” Odom said. “ We didn’t win a competitive ball down the field for the most part.”
The Kansas Jayhawks won the coin flip before the start of the game and they decided to defer to the second half. UNLV made them pay the price early, scoring a touchdown on its first drive.
The Rebels offense rolled through the Jayhawks in an eight-play, 65 yard drive to start the game. De Jesus accounted for 44 yards receiving and Davis Jr. pounded the rock into the end zone with a 3-yard touchdown rush.
UNLV continued to play complementary football, with the defense forcing a three-and-out after the touchdown drive.
The Jayhawks responded by holding UNLV to a three-and-out then proceeded to have a nine-play 98-yard scoring drive to tie the game at 7-7 in the backend of the first quarter.
Maiava made his first crucial mistake at the beginning of the second quarter, throwing an interception deep in Kansas territory to Cobee Bryant.
The Jayhawks responded with a touchdown on a play, in which the Rebel defense clearly suffered from a miscommunication error, leaving Grimm wide open for a 60-yard catch and run for a touchdown to put Kansas up 14-7 with 11:47 remaining in the second quarter.
UNLV responded from the Jayhawks touchdown with a seven- play 41 yard drive to put the Rebels in field goal range for Jose Pizano or so we thought. Pizano did not have the distance on a 52-yard field goal attempt and the score stayed at 14-7.
The Bean and Grimm connection dominated the Rebels through the first half and they connected for a 51-yard pass on the possession after the field goal attempt, putting them deep in UNLV territory.
After the pass to Grimm, Bean tossed a 15-yard touchdown to Arnold to make the score 21-7.
Maiava and Bean, both in their following possessions, tried to do too much with the football. Maiava threw an interception to Craig Young deep in Kansas territory and Bean, on the following play, tried to score a touchdown, but got intercepted by Turner.
Things started to spiral out of control for the Rebels late in the second quarter, with Skinner making a remarkable 44-yard catch at the UNLV 1-yard line. Following the highlight play, Devin Neal punched a 1-yard touchdown rush, putting Kansas up 28-7.
UNLV started the second half similar to the first with complementary football. Oliver picked off Bean in Kansas territory to set up UNLV in great field position.
The UNLV offense cut the deficit to single digits with a touchdown pass from Maiava to Shelton Zeon III, making the score 28-17 early in the second half.
The Rebels kept up the momentum against Kansas after the Jayhawks committed a 15-yard penalty after a punt fair caught by De Jesus, putting the ball deep on the Kansas 37-yard line.
On the following play Maiava connected with White for a 37-yard touchdown pass that cut the deficit to 28-24.
The Rebels momentum continued with another interception by Oliver to put the Rebels in a position to take the lead.
The Kansas defense was able to put the brakes on the UNLV momentum, sacking Maiava and forcing UNLV to punt.
The Jayhawks started its next drive pinned at the UNLV 1-yard line because of a Marshall Nichols punt. Even though they were pinned, the Jayhawks proceeded to a 10-play 99-yard scoring drive to take a 35-24 lead early in the fourth quarter.
The UNLV offense countered with a scoring drive of its own, starting with Maiava connecting to De Jesus for 38 yards. De Jesus cashed in the touchdown himself with a 11-yard touchdown rush, to make the score 35-30 with 12:05 remaining in regulation.
The offenses for both teams were humming in the fourth quarter and Kansas scored a touchdown less than one minute after the Rebels scored. A 56-yard touchdown pass from Bean to Arnold gave the Jayhawks insurance, putting them up 42-30.
Kansas had the upper hand in the final quarter of play and sealed the game with another touchdown, with Bean connecting to Grimm again for a 43-yard touchdown pass.
The Jayhawks offense overpowered UNLV in the fourth quarter and prevented the Rebels from making a comeback. The Kansas Jayhawks went on to defeat the UNLV Rebels (49-30) at the Guaranteed Rate Bowl.
UNLV Football’s 2023 football campaign wraps up in Phoenix, Arizona with a loss against the Kansas Jayhawks at the Guaranteed Rate Bowl.
For the 2024 season, the Rebels have another opportunity to defeat the Jayhawks as they are slated face off again.
“We got a long way to go. We did some great things this year, but weren’t good enough in the Mountain West Championship game and we certainly weren’t good enough tonight to win games against really good opponents,” Odom said.