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UNLV’s explosive offense finally meets its match

Ricky White’s resetting of the UNLV’s single-season receiving record was the only thing worth celebrating Saturday for the Rebels.

UNLV was subdued by Boise State in the Mountain West championship game at Allegiant Stadium, finishing with 298 yards of offense in a 44-20 loss.

The Rebels hadn’t in any game — besides its 35-7 loss in September to No. 2 Michigan — finished with fewer than 394 yards or 24 points.

“As a unit, we could have just been better … running the ball, passing the ball,” said White, a junior wide receiver. “As a unit, we could have been better at every position.”

UNLV this season had the best offense in the conference with offensive coordinator Brennan Marion’s famed “Go-Go” scheme. The modern, pro-style remix of the triple option yielded the league’s top scoring offense (35.5 points per game) and third-ranked total offense (424.5 yards).

The optionality and variance usually keep opposing defenses at bay.

The opening drive Saturday did exactly that, covering 87 yards in 12 methodical plays, capped by a 5-yard touchdown run by senior running back Vincent Davis. White promptly established the record with three catches for 52 yards — topping Jim Sandusky’s mark of 1,346 in 1981.

But the Rebels wouldn’t score another offensive touchdown or drive again for more than 50 yards.

“We’d get a little momentum, but we couldn’t say in the flow,” said Rebels coach Barry Odom, christened Tuesday as the Mountain West coach of the year.

Indeed, the gaping holes that Davis and his backfield brethren ran through all year were closed by Boise State’s beefy defensive front. Zone defensive concepts muddied the throwing lanes for freshman quarterback Jayden Maiava, the league’s freshman of the year and an all-Mountain West second-team honoree who lost a fumble and threw an interception on successive first-half possessions.

Trailing 31-17 at halftime, the Rebels marched on their opening drive of the second half to the opposing 30-yard line, where two incompletions and a 46-yard field goal followed a 2-yard run.

Their rhythm, their timing … everything was off.

“(The Broncos) had really good length in the back end, contested throws,” Odom said. “They had a lot of athletes, a lot of rangy guys that can run. Credit to how they built their team and the way their coaching put together the game plan.”

White finished with six receptions for 86 yards — and 1,386 this season — while Maiava added another interception, finishing 15 of 29 for 166 yards before ceding quarterbacking duties midway through the fourth quarter to junior Doug Brumfield.

Odom is confident Maiava will bounce back, and with him, the offense in the bowl game — and beyond.

“We all learn from the good and not so good, and he will. He’s a tremendous competitor. He’s banged up a little bit, but he’ll rebound,” Odom said. “He’s a freshman. You think about how many games he’s going to have still yet to come. Such a talented player.”

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

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