UNLV’s offense struggled in the first half of their matchup against the New Mexico Lobos.
Trailing 17-0 early in the second quarter, the Rebels looked to find points, so they looked to their reliable sixth-year placekicker Daniel Gutierrez.
The Los Angeles, California native kicked three field goals in the second half to help the Rebels erase their early deficit and go on and defeat the Lobos 31-20 last Friday night at Allegiant Stadium.
Gutierrez – who is the most accurate kicker in UNLV history with a 84.3% make rate and is ranked seventh in the nation – earned Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Week honors while helping the Rebels pull out the win.
“He’s an automatic man, and he’s done an awesome job,” head coach Marcus Arroyo said Monday. “We’ve put a lot of pressure on him at practice and he’s put a lot of pressure on himself. We obviously couldn’t get it done without him.”
With the win, UNLV heads into its Friday night matchup with the San José State Spartans at 4-1, their best record since 2003, and 2-0 in Mountain West play for only the second time since the conference was formed.
The Rebels’ defense, headed by new defensive coordinator Keith Heyward, is ranked second in the country in interceptions (11) and has been a big key to the team’s success.
“On and off the field, I know what he’s made of and I’ve never questioned that.” Arroyo said of Heyward. “I’m very confident in the ability he has and to see his guys respond, I’m just really proud of him.”
Sophomore defensive back Cameron Oliver had an interception returned for a touchdown in the final seconds to seal the win for the Rebels. It’s Oliver’s second interception returned for a touchdown, and his third interception of the season, all in the last three games.
Oliver said proving himself and that he belongs on the field has been a motivation factor for his early play. For the Rebels’ success on defense Oliver said he’s noticing how prepared they are before the games.
“We’re making sure that in the locker room before the game, the guys are locked in,” he said.
Along with the special teams and defense, the Rebels’ offense continues to excel with their duo of sophomore quarterback Doug Brumfield and junior running back Aidan Robbins.
Robbins is tied for second in the D-I Football Bowl Subdivision with nine total touchdowns. Brumfield has five rushing touchdowns in the previous three games.
Brumfield shared similar sentiments as Oliver regarding his motivation for success.
“Proving to ourselves that we can do what we set out to do and that the hard work will pay off,” Brumfield said.
The Rebels have earned weekly awards in all three phases and are looking to keep the momentum going for their upcoming road game against San Jose Staté.
Arroyo said that his team has been winning in practice, and they feel good when they leave the practice field. The level of confidence he has in his team is the same level he has in his coaching staff.
“You can hear it in the headset, you can see it in our demeanor, you can see the way we’re coaching and making adjustments at halftime and you can see the way our program is responding to it.”
The Rebels are on the road this week to face the 3-1 San José State Spartans. A school Arroyo is familiar with as he lettered three times as quarterback for the Spartans and spent five seasons coaching them.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. between the Rebels and Spartans in San José, California at CEFCU Stadium. The winner will hold a strong lead in first place in the West division standings.
“I’m juiced about this week and another opportunity to get better,” Arroyo said.