Updated December 2, 2023 - 3:57 pm
Three takeaways from UNLV’s 44-20 loss to Boise State on Saturday in the Mountain West football championship game at Allegiant Stadium:
1. Bad time for turnovers
UNLV’s defense spent 37:10 on the field in part because its offense turned the football over on two consecutive first-half possessions. Trailing 21-14 and driving in the first half, freshman quarterback Jayden Maiava elected to keep the ball on a triple-option run play.
But he fumbled as he was tackled, and the Broncos recovered and scored a touchdown to extend their lead.
On UNLV’s next possession, Maiava’s third-down pass was thrown directly to Boise State junior cornerback A’Marion McCoy. The Rebels forced a field goal instead of surrendering a touchdown, but the 17-point deficit left them without a margin for error.
UNLV senior linebacker Fred Thompkins Jr. had a 47-yard interception-return touchdown, and senior defensive back Jerrae Williams, playing in his first game since September, recovered a fumble early in the fourth quarter. But the Rebels — tied for 10th nationally in turnover margin in games against Football Bowl Subdivision competition (plus-0.8 per game) — lost the turnover battle and, with it, the game.
Replaced in the fourth quarter by junior Doug Brumfield, Maiava finished 15 of 29 for 166 yards, two interceptions and the fumble.
Junior wide receiver Ricky White had six catches for 86 yards to establish a single-season program record for receiving yards with 1,386.
2. Defense struggles
Boise State sophomore quarterback Taylen Green had his way with the Rebels as a passer and runner. He saw during his dropbacks an assortment of receivers streaking uncovered by UNLV’s defensive backs, completing 12 of 15 passes for 226 yards, two touchdowns and the pick.
On the play that followed Maiava’s fumble, Green faked a handoff before sprinting 70 yards for another score.
The Broncos tallied 323 yards of offense in the first half, averaging 9.5 yards per play before finishing with 527 yards.
Green had 90 rushing yards on eight attempts and two TD runs. Sophomore running back Ashton Jeanty finished with 153 rushing yards and a score on 21 carries.
3. Always steady
Not struggling was UNLV senior kicker Jose Pizano, who converted both of his field-goal attempts — including one in the first half from 51 yards.
A Lou Groza Award finalist as one of the nation’s top place-kickers, Pizano has converted 92.6 percent of his field-goal attempts (25 of 27) and all 51 of his extra points.