Rebels look to carry momentum at home against New Mexico

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The UNLV football team gets ready to take the field in Logan, Utah before the Rebels' 34-24 win against Utah State on Sept. 24. Photo Courtesy of Lucas Peltier/UNLV Athletics.

UNLV football returns home after beating Utah State 34-24 for their opening game of Mountain West Conference play.

The Rebels will play the New Mexico Lobos Friday night at Allegiant Stadium. For the first time since 2008, the Rebels have a 3-1 record putting them in first place in the West Division of the Mountain West.

In the lead-up to their game with the Lobos, there are several things UNLV football coach Marcus Arroyo said the Rebels will have to rely on when it comes to succeeding in this week’s game.

“Stopping the run is going to be a big deal this weekend, explosive plays, playing catch on offense, being efficient in the red zone, and scoring to feel positioned.” Arroyo said “We’re flying around, playing at high speeds, and we’re practicing better each week.

Building off their road win against the reigning conference champions, Arroyo said last Saturday the Rebels played their “fastest, most physical game.”

The Rebels’ defense was a crucial key to victory. They had two fourth-down stops and forced six turnovers including five interceptions and senior defensive lineman Tavis Malakius recovered a fumble.

Fifth-year senior linebacker Austin Aijake was named the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Week after he led the Rebels with 11 total tackles and also got the second turnover of the game against Utah State. 

On the offensive side of the ball, sophomore quarterback Doug Brumfield completed 21 of 31 passes for 217 yards including one passing touchdown and two rushing touchdowns.

Junior running back Aidan Robbins and junior wide receiver Kyle Williams also both found the endzone. Williams was the recipient of a 6-yard touchdown pass from Brumfield to help UNLV hold a 21-7 lead Robbins scored on a 5-yard rush midway through the third quarter for UNLV’s final score.

For special teams, Daniel Gutierrez, who is the most accurate kicker in UNLV history, was set up for two field goals to help UNLV finish the game against Utah State with a win.

In preparation for the Rebels’ upcoming games, Arroyo said the expectations have risen to maintain their early success.

“We’ve got to expect the expectations of winning football, that’s a real new mindset for everybody that’s involved in the locker room,” he said. 

In the two previous home games, the Rebels’ offense has put up over 50 in both home games this season, and are looking to match that intensity for this week’s game. 

“It’s about us at the end of the day,” Ajiake said. “We have to make sure we’re prepared throughout the week and make sure that we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing.”

Although Robbins is not familiar with New Mexico, since he’s new to the Mountain West he said the mindset is the same against every team.

“We look at every team the same, it doesn’t matter who we’re playing, our job is to go out there and execute,” the Louisville transfer said.

The Rebels have won seven of the last 10 games against the Lobos, earning them a slight edge in the series, 13-12. 

New Mexico is coming into this week’s game with a 2-2 record and are 0-1 in the Mountain West, in their previous game they lost 38-0 to Louisiana State University.

The Rebels are playing the Lobos in Las Vegas for the first time since 2018 and Arroyo said playing in Allegiant Stadium gives the Rebels the energy and intensity it takes to win at home.

“I could just feel it from the field, it’s electric,” Arroyo said. “It’s an amazing feeling how the energy of a stadium can impact the flow of a game because we feed off of that.”

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