Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023 | 12:10 a.m.
When you’re a team of destiny, sometimes you get lucky, and other times you have to make your own fortune.
UNLV took the latter route in Saturday’s 34-14 victory over visiting Wyoming.
The Scarlet and Gray opened the game with a flurry of haymakers, taking a 21-0 lead at the end of the first quarter, but Wyoming clawed back in the second, scoring a pair of touchdowns to pull within seven.
The Cowboys had the ball in the final seconds of the half, moving inside the UNLV 10 in search of a tying touchdown just before the buzzer. Such a score would have been a bit deflating for Barry Odom’s squad, but junior cornerback Cameron Oliver wasn’t about to let it happen.
Oliver jumped an out route at the goal line and came down with a spectacular interception with 12 seconds on the clock, sending UNLV into the locker room with momentum.
Odom’s defense then shut out Wyoming in the second half, sealing the win to move UNLV to 8-2 on the season and 5-1 in Mountain West play.
It was Oliver’s third interception, and the kind of play that stands out in a season already full of memorable moments for this upstart UNLV squad.
Junior linebacker Jackson Woodard credited his instinctual teammate for tilting the contest in UNLV’s favor.
“Biggest play of the game,” Woodard said. “I think it completely changed the game. Cam has made so many spectacular plays like that in other games, and also in practice. He practices that way and it shows up in the game. He’s a phenomenal player and he made a phenomenal play.”
Offensively, UNLV had to rely on the passing game, as Wyoming limited the ground attack to 3.6 yards per carry. Freshman quarterback Jayden Maiava was up to the task, hitting 17-of-24 passes for 232 yards and a touchdown. He also used his legs effectively, scrambling for 40 yards and two more touchdowns.
Junior receiver Ricky White was Maiava’s favorite target once again; they hooked up eight times for 144 yards, the fourth time in the last five games he has gone over 140 yards receiving.
White now has 1,028 yards on the year, making him the first UNLV receiver to go over 1,000 since Devante Davis in 2013.
The win sets up perhaps the biggest game in UNLV’s history, as they’ll travel to first-place Air Force next week with a berth in the Mountain West championship game potentially hanging in the balance.
Air Force is currently 5-0 in conference play, with a game at Hawaii on Saturday. UNLV and Fresno State came into the week tied for second place at 4-1. If UNLV were to beat AFA head-to-head, and all three teams finish the season at 7-1, Mountain West tiebreakers would likely put UNLV into the title game against Fresno State.
Woodard, a team captain who followed Odom from Arkansas to UNLV via the transfer portal, said he and his teammates can sense they’re on the verge of something special.
“You definitely feel it,” Woodard said. “Obviously, we’re happy with what we’re doing, but it’s on to the next. We’ve got to keep winning if we want to reach the ultimate goal, which is a conference championship.”
Coming off a supremely disappointing 5-7 campaign, few could have imagined the Scarlet and Gray controlling their own destiny with two weeks left in the season. And yet, here they are, trying to go where no UNLV team has gone before.
Odom said the program’s lackluster history will not factor into what happens over the next two weeks.
“It’s a new team,” Odom said. “You get to write your story. It’s a blank sheet, you’ve got the pen in your hand and you get to write it.”