Rebels win Mountain West Conference thriller vs. Lobos on Friday night
UNLV can become bowl eligible with win at Nevada next week
Rebels, Lobos combine for 1,000 yards
College football fans were treated to something they had not yet seen in 2017 when the UNLV Rebels and New Mexico Lobos locked up in Albuquerque on Friday night.
The Rebels outlasted the Lobos 38-35 in a classic that keeps the UNLV bowl hopes alive entering next week’s regular season finale against the Nevada Wolf Pack.
Both teams featured a pair of players topping the century mark in rushing yards, the first time that’s occurred this season. In fact, there were five. New Mexico running backs Tyrone Owens and Daryl Chestnut rushed for 164 and 145 yards, respectively. Lobos quarterback Lamar Jordan chipped in 116 yards on the ground. UNLV’s Lexington Thomas totaled 127 while Rebels quarterback Armani Rogers racked up a career-high 193, a school record for a QB.
UNLV built a 10-0 first quarter lead and took a 24-14 advantage into the half. After three quarters the Rebels held a 27-21 lead before New Mexico jumped ahead 28-27 on a touchdown run from Owens with just over nine minutes remaining.
A 40-yard field goal from Evan Pantels gave the Rebels a 30-28 lead with 6:11 left on the clock. Then both quarterbacks, in a night full of spectacular performances, had a chance to showcase their best stuff.
First came Jordan, who needed five plays, 62 yards, and 2:13 to give New Mexico a 35-30 with 71 seconds remaining. He rushed for 54 yards on the drive, punctuated by his 41-yard touchdown run.
Finally, UNLV fans got the Armani Rogers moment they’ve been waiting to see.
The Rebels redshirt freshman quarterback needed five plays, 77 yards, and 40 seconds to resuscitate UNLV bowl hopes. Rogers found receiver for Darren Woods Jr. for 50 yards on the drive, before throwing a touchdown pass to Kendal Keys from 14 yards out. Keys also caught a two-point conversion from Rogers to make the final margin.
New Mexico did all their work on the ground. Jordan put the ball in the air just four times Friday night. Rogers had a more balanced attack. He completed 13 of 25 passes for 211 yards and a touchdown.
For all the fireworks this one provided, it was a pretty cleanly played game. The only turnover was a Javin White interception of Jordan on the final play of the game. UNLV was whistled for just one penalty, late in the fourth quarter. Five New Mexico penalties totaled 49 yards.
A UNLV regular season that started with historic loss to Howard now has the chance to conclude in a way that not even the most optimistic Rebels fan could have predicted. If the Scarlet and Gray are able to leave Reno with a victory over the Nevada Wolf Pack next Saturday, UNLV will become bowl eligible for the first time since 2013. That season the Rebels finished 7-5 and were invited to the Heart of Dallas Bowl where they lost to North Texas 36-14.
Last season Nevada reclaimed the Fremont Cannon with 45-10 win in Las Vegas. The Rebels and Wolf Pack have split the last four meetings. Reno holds the all-time advantage in the rivalry, 25-17.
A bowl game for Tony Sanchez’s program in his third year would be a gigantic step forward, even if he did take a damn funny route to get there. UNLV shoots for bowl eligibility next week in Reno. Rebels and Wolf Pack at high noon on November 25th. Put it on your calendar.