UNLV football bounced back from a rough start to defeat the New Mexico Lobos 31-20 Friday night at Allegiant Stadium.
The Rebels scored 24 unanswered points to improve to 4-1 on the season and 2-0 in Mountain West play. Junior running back Aidan Robbins rushed for a 3-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter that proved to be the deciding score.
“That’s such a huge deal for our group,” head coach Marcus Arroyo said. “Just a character building win, that’s the bottom line.”
UNLV found themselves trailing early on. The Lobos jumped out to a 17-0 lead as their quarterback Miles Kendricks scrambled and scored two rushing touchdowns. The Rebels struggled as they picked up only one first down in the entire first quarter.
While New Mexico’s fast start caught UNLV off guard, the Rebels believed their in-game adjustments would get them back into the game.
“Just being in this situation before,” sophomore quarterback Doug Brumfield said, “we’ve seen most situations so we know what we need to do. We know we need to go out there and execute, we know how to adjust what to expect from other teams.”
Those improvements were evident in the second quarter. The Rebels picked up seven first downs while holding the Lobos to just two. The Rebels also out-gained the Lobos in total yards, 115-21.
The Rebels ended the first half and scored field goals on all of their final three drives from sixth-year senior kicker Daniel Gutierrez. This was a sign of things to come as in the second half the Rebels shut out the Lobos in the third quarter.
UNLV carried its momentum into the third quarter. It started with their defense as the Rebels limited New Mexico to 55 total yards of offense in the third quarter, while the Rebels’ offense had 125 yards.
The Rebels’ defense held the Lobos to just seven first downs in the entire second half. They also stopped the Lobos on third down, denying them on all four of the Lobos’ tries in the fourth quarter. New Mexico finished the night 2 of 11 on third down conversion attempts.
“The biggest thing that the coaches say is to be in control with chaos,” defensive lineman Adam Plant Jr. said. “Everything’s not gonna be peachy and fine, and when those big moments come in, when it’s time to step up, you have to be ready.”
With 30 seconds left to try and make a comeback, the Rebels stopped the Lobos again. Defensive back Cameron Oliver picked off Kendricks and returned it 12-yards for a touchdown to seal the win.
“It just speaks a lot to the culture and these guys and their belief in each other,” Arroyo said. “Their belief in their coaches and their resiliency. Coming back from behind to win right there says a lot about these guys,”
Brumfield completed 72.7% of his passes (24 of 33) for 233 passing yards as well as one interception. Brumfield added 19 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown.
Robbins tallied 79 net rushing yards. Wide receiver Senika McKie stepped up in a big way. With starters Kyle Williams and Jeff Weimer out, McKie had five receptions for a total of 72 receiving yards.
Linebacker Austin Ajiake led the defense with 12 total tackles including one tackle for a loss.
“Again, I’m proud of the way they fight and I’m proud of the length of the culture and I’m proud of the way that they keep believing there’s a lot to be learned,” Arroyo said.
Up next, the Rebels’ (4-1) travel to San Jose, California, where they’ll face off against the San Jose State Spartans (2-1) Friday at 7:30 p.m.