Published Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016 | 11:30 a.m.
Updated Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016 | 4:32 p.m.
If its performance this afternoon was any indication, UNLV spent its bye week in the middle of Mountain West Conference play wisely.
The Rebels looked like a different team than the one that had dropped back-to-back contests to San Jose State and Colorado State in upsetting Wyoming 69-66 in triple overtime at Sam Boyd Stadium. The victory evened the Rebels at 3-3 in league play and ruined Wyoming’s unblemished conference record.
It was a surprise to find UNLV’s offense capable of keeping up in the highest-scoring game in the history of the Mountain West Conference. The Rebels led most of the way but allowed a 97-yard drive by the Cowboys to tie the game at 59 in the final minute of regulation.
Neither UNLV nor Wyoming could stop each other in the first two overtimes, as they traded quick touchdowns. But then UNLV senior defensive back Torry McTyer intercepted his second pass of the game in the third overtime.
That set up a 41-yard game-winning field goal from senior kicker Nicolai Bornand, who was filling in for the injured Evan Pantels. UNLV rushed the field as the kick sailed through the uprights.
The Rebels were boosted by the first start of the year from junior Kurt Palandech, who racked up 409 total yards and four touchdowns. His biggest play came right after Wyoming had taken a 45-44 lead at the start of the fourth quarter.
On the first play of UNLV’s next drive, Wyoming bit on a play-action fake and left Palandech with a wide-open field in front of him. He took off for a 76-yard touchdown that looked like the final points of the game until Wyoming’s Tanner Gentry caught a 19-yard touchdown pass from Josh Allen on the final play of regulation.
UNLV ran at will against Wyoming for the duration of the game. Xzaviar Campbell, David Greene and Charles Williams all ran for more than 60 yards.
In total, UNLV rushed 64 times for 401 yards. Greene scored two touchdowns, with Campbell and Jericho Flowers also finding the end zone on the ground.
UNLV’s defense surrendered more than 7 yards per play but had three takeaways that proved pivotal to pulling off the upset.
Check back to lasvegassun.com later for more coverage.
UNLV has a chance to pick up a signature win in what’s mostly been a season full of disappointments Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium.
The only surprising part is the team that’s presenting the opportunity. Wyoming is right with San Diego State as the hottest team in the Mountain West, having won five straight since conference play began and controlling its destiny to reach the title game in three weeks.
The Cowboys are already bowl eligible for the first time in five years and need to win two of their last three games to finish with their best regular-season record in 20 years. It’s the kind of run that has always eluded UNLV, which is 4-9 in conference play since coach Tony Sanchez took over last year.
The Rebels have lost two straight — to Colorado State and Wyoming — entering today’s game, with wide-ranging defensive woes and the lack of passing game serving as the main culprits. UNLV completed only 35 percent of its passes while San Jose State and Colorado State threw for 162 more yards despite getting out to a big lead and not needing to throw.
It’s Kurt Palandech’s turn to try to fix the passing game against Wyoming, though, as the junior makes his first start of the season. UNLV’s rushing attack is one area that requires no repair.
Sophomore Lexington Thomas and freshman Charles Williams have both been revelations, gaining more than 600 yards and 5 yards per carry on the season. Wyoming still isn’t a finished product defensively, giving UNLV some hope to keep up with what’s been one of the best teams in the conference.
It’s going to take points, though. Between sophomore quarterback Josh Allen and junior running back Brian Hill, Wyoming is well rounded offensively.
No one said pulling an upset worth remembering — UNLV is currently an 8-point underdog — would be easy.
Stay tuned to lasvegassun.com for live coverage of the game all afternoon.