Updated November 6, 2023 - 7:09 pm
UNLV was already leading by four touchdowns when Jayden Maiava decided to take a shot.
Standing on New Mexico’s 43-yard line, the redshirt freshman quarterback dropped back, faked the handoff and uncorked a huge throw down the middle of the field and into the waiting arms of senior wide receiver Dominic Gicinto.
Then, Maiava did it again.
On the first snap of UNLV’s next possession, Maiava launched another deep strike — this one for 58 yards — to Ricky White for another touchdown.
The Rebels aired it out Saturday in a 56-14 obliteration of New Mexico at University Stadium in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The 42-point margin of victory is the biggest ever for the Rebels in a conference game, breaking the 35-point mark set in 2010 when UNLV defeated New Mexico 45-10 under coach Bobby Hauck.
The win also secures the first winning season for UNLV (7-2, 4-1 Mountain West) since 2013, when Hauck’s team was 7-6 and went to the Heart of Dallas Bowl. The previous winning season before that came in 2000.
Coach Barry Odom said it was also a good bounce-back performance after a last-second 31-24 loss to Fresno State a week ago.
“We played good team football,” Odom told reporters. “Smart ball.”
Maiava went 13-for-18 for 247 yards and a career-best three touchdowns against the Lobos (3-6, 1-4).
White hauled in eight catches for 165 yards and reached the end zone twice, while Gicinto caught all three of his targets for 56 yards and the first touchdown of his UNLV career after transferring from New Mexico State.
The Rebels rushed for 164 yards and five touchdowns, led by senior Vincent Davis with nine carries for 59 yards and two touchdowns.
UNLV had 411 total yards, converted five of eight third downs and averaged 8.2 yards per play. The Rebels also accumulated 207 special teams yards and took advantage of a botched punt by the Lobos in the first quarter.
It’s the sixth time this season UNLV has scored at least 40 points, another program record.
“I thought offensively, we had some really nice play calls and designs on what we thought we were going to get,” Odom said.
Sophomore linebacker Marsel McDuffie led all UNLV defenders with six tackles. Junior defensive end Jalen Dixon forced a fumble that junior defensive back Jett Elad returned 62 yards to set up a 5-yard rushing touchdown by Donavyn Lester.
The Rebels jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead. After New Mexico got on the board early in the second quarter to cut the deficit to seven, Maiava and the Rebels scored 21 straight points to finish the first half with a 35-7 lead.
“We wanted to control it early,” Odom said.
The win keeps UNLV in the thick of the Mountain West race with three games to play. The Rebels are a game behind first-place Air Force (8-1, 5-0). Boise State (4-4, 3-1) and Fresno State (7-1, 3-1), which entered the day tied with UNLV, played late Saturday.
“Now,” Odom said, “the race is on.”