RENO — Needing 1 yard to take control and put itself on the path to bowl eligibility, UNLV had two chances Saturday to pick up that valuable yard.
The Rebels didn’t get it either time.
UNR then seized momentum and rallied to beat the Rebels 23-16 at Mackay Stadium, keeping the Fremont Cannon blue and in Reno and ending UNLV’s hopes of playing one more game before 2017 ends.
The Rebels (5-7, 4-4 Mountain West) can look back at this defeat to UNR (3-9, 3-5), the season-opening loss to FCS member Howard and the 27-point blown lead at Air Force as reasons they came up short in making a bowl.
UNLV led 16-9 late in the third quarter and had the ball at the Wolf Pack’s 9-yard line. A field goal would have given the Rebels a two-possession lead, but needing just a yard for the first down, they could have all but put away the game with a touchdown.
Quarterback Armani Rogers on third down and running back Lexington Thomas on fourth down were stopped for no gain, giving the Wolf Pack the ball with 4:29 left in the quarter. They then went 91 yards in 3:48 to tie the score on Ty Gangi’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Trevion Armstrong.
“That fourth down-and-1, you’ve got to pick that up if you’re going to win a big rival game like that,” UNLV coach Tony Sanchez said. “We’ve done it time and time again. You’ve got to be tough ones to pick that one up.”
UNR scored the winning touchdown with 7:34 to play on Kelton Moore’s 1-yard touchdown run. The Rebels then drove to UNR’s 22, but Rogers was stopped for no gain on third-and-2 and then threw an incomplete pass with 1:14 left to effectively end the game.