Photo Credit: Mountain West Conference

FSM Essential Recap – UNLV Rebels vs Colorado State Rams- Week 9 -2023

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UNLV improved to 6-1 on the year and became Bowl eligible after a 25-23 win over the Colorado State Rams.

The UNLV Rebels took on the Colorado State Rams on Saturday!

UNLV vs Colorado State | Franchise Sports Media
Photo Credit: TQ/Franchise Sports Media

UNLV took on Colorado State in their homecoming game Saturday afternoon.

In any other year, it would have been great to win the homecoming game, but this season, even more was at stake for the Rebels. With the win, they would become Bowl-eligible for the first time since 2013, move to 6–1 on the year, and remain undefeated in Mountain West Conference play.

A familiar former foe was standing across the sidelines from UNLV in Colorado State head coach Jay Novell, the former UNR Wolfpack head man. The last time a team coached by Norvell played UNLV, his team scored 51 points on them and embarrassed them in Reno with a 51-27 win in 2021. His Rams, however, came into the game 3-3 and looking to build off a 20-point come-from-behind win over Boise State last week.

The Rebels have not been to a bowl game since 2013. Having dealt with heartbreaking losses, near misses, and misfortune in years past, UNLV was looking to set a new standard and breakthrough to a new era. In front of a sea full of red Rebels fans filling the lower bowl at Allegiant Stadium, UNLV showed the grit and determination needed to become a successful program.

Unlike years past, this UNLV team has shown a knack for playing clutch football and for pulling out wins in dramatic fashion. They did so against Vanderbilt with the last-second field goal in week 3, and on Saturday night, it came down to a dramatic finish once again.

All three phases for the Rebels stepped up when they needed them the most. Barry Odom and his coaching staff have set a new standard after Saturday night’s 25-23 win. Fans can officially start to wonder, not only should UNLV be ranked in the Top 25, but could they compete for a Mountain West Conference championship? 

UNLV beat Colorado State on Saturday

UNLV came from behind to beat Colorado State in dramatic fashion in front of the Red Sea at Allegiant Stadium.

UNLV Rebels vs Colorado State saw a performance for the ages by the Rebels on Saturday.

UNLV vs Colorado State | Franchise Sports Media
Photo Credit: TQ/Franchise Sports Media

In the first quarter, each team saw their possessions end in a punt. This was a surprising start, considering UNLV had scored 40 or more points in four straight games, and their offense had looked unstoppable since week 3.

This game looked like it was going to be a defensive battle. Could the Rebels‘ defense be up to the task?

Freshman quarterback Jayden Maiava led the Rebels down inside the Rams 30, but they were unable to score a touchdown. UNLV settled for the field goal and took a 3-0 lead at the start of the second quarter. Colorado State, on their next possession, came down and also kicked the field goal to tie the ball game up.

After another UNLV punt, the Rams marched down and scored a touchdown to take a 10–3 lead over the Rebels on their next possession. The Rams added another field goal to take a 13-3 lead heading into the half.

Could UNLV come out from their locker room and from behind to keep their dream of getting to a Bowl alive? Or would they be like Rebels teams in the past and fold under the pressure?

 

UNLV vs Colorado State | Franchise Sports Media
Photo Credit: TQ/Franchise Sports Media

UNLV got the ball to start the third quarter and asserted their dominance and their will on the Rams.

The UNLV special teams unit put them in outstanding field position all game, and they capitalized on it with a field goal on their first possession. The special teams unit once again was vital all game.

Jacob De Jesus’s return ability, giving the Rebels offense outstanding starting field position to start drives, was critical in the second half.

After an interception by Rebels safety Jaxen Turner, UNLV turned that into a Donavyn Lester touchdown. On that series where Lester scored, the big running back ran over a Colorado State defender and made his helmet fly off his head. It was a statement play for the rest of the team. It resonated with each Rebel player on the bench and showed that UNLV would not be denied, nor would they be overmatched or pushed around by Colorado State.

The Rebels added another field goal in the third quarter, and UNLV went into the fourth quarter with a 16–13 lead.

Colorado State came back and scored a touchdown of their own, taking a 19-16 lead early in the fourth quarter. The Rebels answered with two more Jose Pizano field goals to reclaim the lead. Colorado State drove down and kicked another field goal with just 44 seconds remaining in the game, taking a 23-22 lead.

It was time for Rebels offensive coordinator Brennan Marion and the UNLV offense to show why they are one of the best in college football this season.

Maiava led the Rebels‘ offensive attack and drove them down inside the Colorado State 10-yard line in 5 plays to set up a game-winning Jose Pizano 28-yard field goal attempt. Pizano nailed a school-record sixth-field goal as time expired, and the Rebels won 25-23.

On that drive, the Rebels’ offense was clicking. Lester picked up a big first down on a critical third down and three, and a play later, UNLV leading receiver Ricky White made a huge catch to put the Rebels in field goal position. On the next play, Jacob De Jesus caught a pass from Maiava that set up the game-winning field goal.

UNLV is now eligible to go to a Bowl for the first time since 2013. They will now head to Fresno to take on the 6-1 Bulldogs in a game that could determine who might be playing in the Mountain West Championship game.

UNLV was led by receiver Jacob De Jesus, running back Donovan Lester, and wide receiver Ricky White III in their win vs Colorado State.

This was a program-defining win for the Rebels. They improved to 6-1 overall on the season, but as good as it feels, Barry Odom knows the job isn’t finished.

UNLV took on Colorado State at Allegiant Stadium on Saturday

UNLV vs Colorado State | Franchise Sports Media
Photo Credit: TQ/Franchise Sports Media

Barry Odom became the first head coach to win six of his first seven games at the school since Ron Meyer did so in 1973. The Rebels also remain undefeated at home and their fifth home game dating back to last season.

Jacob De Jesus caught for 120 yards on nine receptions and also had 103 kickoff return yards and 40 punt return yards for a total of 263 all-purpose yards.

Linebacker Jackson Woodard, all tacklers with 14 tackles, and safety Jaxen Turner added an interception, his team-leading third of the season. 

Coach Odom was happy with the win and felt his team showed the type of determination that good teams have. He also said getting to a Bowl is the standard every year.

Thrilled to get that win. I don’t know what our attendance was, but they made the difference in the game. They were loud — we felt it, and our team made so many big plays over the course of four quarters to find a way to win the game. You never know what play is going to make the difference, and I don’t know how many two-minute drills we have done since we started here together, but we always go good on good, and it’s always at the end of practice,” Barry Odom said after the game. “It is for those reasons. We are going to get in those situations in the game, and you have to make clutch plays. You have to protect, you have to make throws, you have to make tough catches, and we felt like if we got in position today, from the 40-yard line and in, that we were going to come away with points.

Our team showed toughness, they showed resolve, they showed togetherness, they showed strain. It wasn’t great at halftime, and I didn’t have to say a word. Our team did, and I was proud of them for that. Our guys found a way, and we are so thrilled to have a chance to get down and win one like that because we will grow from it. The energy was amazing. We will continue to build on that, and we have a chance now at 6-1 and 3-0 in the conference. It opens up a lot of opportunities for our football team.”

The final score from Allegiant Stadium was 25-23, UNLV over Colorado State.

UNLV will head to Fresno to take on Fresno State next Saturday at Valley Children’s Stadium. The kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

 

– Joe Arrigo – Franchise Sports Media

Follow Joe on all social media: @JoeArrigoFSM

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