Updated November 25, 2023 - 6:25 pm
Barry Odom’s tenure has been brief but successful. The UNLV coach has rarely had to speak to the media following a defeat this season, simply because the Rebels haven’t done much losing.
In fact, Saturday was the first time Odom entered the news conference room at Allegiant Stadium following a loss.
“Haven’t been in this position many times this year, and that’s a good thing,” Odom said. “Hate it for our team, that I couldn’t get it done today. Came up short.”
UNLV lost its regular-season finale to San Jose State 37-31, snapping the Rebels’ three-game winning streak and denying them a chance to clinch a berth in next week’s Mountain West championship game.
UNLV (9-3, 6-2) is now part of a three-way tie atop the conference with San Jose State (7-5, 6-2) and Boise State (7-5, 6-2), which beat Air Force 27-19 on Friday.
The Mountain West will announce the title game participants and the host team Sunday, which will be determined by composite computer rankings.
UNLV led San Jose State and Boise State in the rankings by a significant margin entering the final week of the season. The Rebels are well-positioned to earn at least a berth in the title game, though Odom refused to accept any excuses for his team’s performance against San Jose State.
“If anyone was thinking this one didn’t matter, I don’t think it was in our locker room,” Odom said.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Jayden Maiava completed 19 of his 29 pass attempts for 229 yards and a touchdown. Freshman tailback Jai’Den Thomas ran for 48 yards and three touchdowns, while junior Ricky White hauled in five catches for 111 yards.
Freshman Corey Thompson Jr., who entered the game with zero receptions this season, caught three passes for 50 yards and a touchdown.
Sophomore Marsel McDuffie led UNLV with 12 tackles, while junior Jackson Woodard added 11 with two tackles for a loss.
San Jose State quarterback Chevan Cordeiro threw for 249 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Kairee Robinson had 165 yards rushing and reached paydirt twice to extend the Spartans’ winning streak to six games.
“You work so hard throughout the week, dedicate everything to win, put so much time, so much sacrifice into winning,” Woodard said. “And then when we lose, you kind of look at that like it’s gone — not gone, but it just hurts.”
Odom and the Rebels started the game in the worst possible way. San Jose State’s opening drive found the end zone after Cordeiro hit tight end Sam Olson for a 56-yard touchdown. UNLV junior Jacob De Jesus fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and San Jose State tacked on a field goal.
Maiava and the Rebels’ offense went three-and-out on its first possession, and the Spartans marched down the field to cap a 17-0 onslaught with a 25-yard touchdown run by Robinson.
Thomas got UNLV on the scoreboard with a 7-yard dash to the end zone near the end of the first quarter, and the Rebels held the Spartans to just three points for the rest of the half to trail 20-10 at the break.
UNLV was never able to completely flip the momentum. White’s 68-yard catch to set up another Thomas touchdown early in the third quarter was answered by 17 straight San Jose State points.
Maiava and the Rebels cut the deficit to a single possession in the fourth quarter and got the ball back on their own 25-yard line with 1:04 remaining, but UNLV’s attempted game-winning drive stalled out at its own 40-yard line to end the game.
“I thought we had opportunities,” Odom said. “We ran out of time.”