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UNLV football cleans up Mountain West awards after historic season

Updated November 28, 2023 - 10:54 pm

UNLV football coach Barry Odom was named the Mountain West’s coach of the year, leading several Rebels who were honored when the conference announced its annual awards Tuesday.

Freshman quarterback Jayden Maiava was named the league’s freshman of the year, while senior kicker Jose Pizano was named the special teams player of the year. Pizano was also selected as one of three finalists for the Lou Groza Award for college football’s best kicker.

Pizano, senior wide receiver Ricky White, junior right tackle Tiger Shanks, linebacker Jackson Woodard and return specialist Jacob De Jesus were selected to the All-Mountain West first team. Junior defensive back Cameron Oliver was selected to the league’s second team, along with junior defensive lineman Jalen Dixon.

Senior running backs Vincent Davis Jr. and Donavyn Lester, sophomore linebacker Marsel McDuffie, senior safety Jaxen Turner and sophomore punter Marshall Nichols earned All-Mountain West honorable mention honors.

Odom, 47, became UNLV’s first conference coach of the year since John Robinson shared the honor with Colorado State’s Sunny Lubick in 2000. The Rebels improved in all three phases in Odom’s first season.

They’re 9-3 and will face Boise State in the Mountain West championship game Saturday at Allegiant Stadium. It’s UNLV’s best season since it finished 11-2 in 1984.

Boise State sophomore running back Ashton Jeanty was named offensive player of the year, and Colorado State defensive end Mohamed Kamara was named defensive player of the year.

Maiava, a Liberty alum who began the season as the backup, is among the nation’s best freshmen. He tallied 2,628 passing yards, 14 touchdowns and six interceptions while completing 64 percent of his throws. Maiava’s top target, White, has a conference-leading 1,300 receiving yards on 75 receptions, including seven touchdowns. White also set a program record by positing five consecutive 100-yard games.

Shanks helps buoy the passing offense, plus the Mountain West’s No. 2 rushing offense (180.5 yards per game). Pizano has converted 92 percent of his field goals (23 of 25) and has two game-winners. He also holds program records for points in a season (119), points in a game (19) and consecutive field goals made (19).

Woodard has 104 tackles, 1.5 sacks, one interception and three pass breakups. De Jesus leads the nation in return yards with 833, ranking in the top 15 in average punt (16.8) and kickoff (26.4) return yards to galvanize the program’s improved special teams.

Contact Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on X.

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