Senior quarterback Lamar Jordan seemed in line to be the hero after he engineered a late go-ahead touchdown drive but left too much time on the clock as UNLV crashed the party to snatch the victory on Friday night.
New Mexico was dealt its sixth consecutive loss, falling in its final home game of the season 38-35 to UNLV. The loss dropped the team to 1-6 in conference play and 3-8 overall, but the head coach seemed pleased with the effort.
“I’m proud of him,” head coach Bob Davie said of Jordan. “It’s a shame a game-winner wasn’t the game-winner. It’s tough for all the seniors with the families here, but I’m very proud of the effort and I thought Lamar (Jordan) did some excellent things.”
UNLV scored on its first two possessions, taking a 10-0 lead about midway through the first quarter, and it looked like the Lobos might be in trouble early.
The Rebels seemed to be in line for another score in the second quarter after driving to the New Mexico 35-yard line, but the Lobos stepped to get two big sacks to thwart UNLV’s opportunity.
Lamar Jordan scores the Lobo’s touchdown during the fourth quarter of UNM’s home game against the University of Nevada Las Vegas Rebels on Nov. 17, 2017. The Lobos lost the game in the last quarter 38-35.
And then New Mexico appeared to find the offense that had been missing in action for much of the season.
Tyrone Owens broke free for a 67-yard run to set the Lobos up in the red zone, and Romell Jordan finished the job, plunging ahead for an 8-yard touchdown run to make the score 10-7.
The Lobos forced a UNLV punt but had a lot of field ahead of them, as the punt was downed at the 2-yard line. New Mexico was up to the task though, traversing 98 yards on the ground to seize a 14-10 advantage with 3:26 remaining until halftime.
But UNM was unable to protect the lead, surrendering two quick touchdowns to go back down by 10 points again, trailing 24-14 at the break.
UNLV running back Lexington Thomas unleashed a 60-yard touchdown run on a drive that took just 38 seconds for the first quick hit. Then needed just one play to score again after quarterback Armani Rogers covered 83 yards on the ground to regain control of the game.
Rogers and Thomas put up big numbers for the game - the quarterback accounted for 404 yards of offense (193 rushing), while Thomas ran for 127 yards.
Lamar Jordan helped close the gap on the opening drive of the third quarter, scampering 40 yards to pay dirt to cut the lead to 24-21. And the defense recovered from some shaky play to make a goal line stand and force a UNLV field goal, which made it a 27-21 game.
After the teams traded punts, New Mexico was almost hit by the turnover bug again. Romell Jordan failed to clearly field a punt, and UNLV was in good position to jump on the ball and build on its lead. But special teamer Thomas Vieira emerged with the ball to maintain possession for the Lobos.
The offense went three-and-out but got another chance to reclaim the lead on its first drive of the fourth quarter. New Mexico covered 80 yards in just six plays - all on the ground again - as Owens put the Lobos back on top 28-27 after a 2-yard touchdown run.
UNLV’s Rogers almost escaped for another touchdown run on the ensuing drive, but New Mexico was able to force the quarterback down and hold the Rebels to another field goal, giving the away team a 30-28 lead.
After each team failed to move the ball and was forced to punt, time was winding down for New Mexico to make a comeback. Still trailing by two with a little over three minutes to play, UNM’s senior quarterback went to work.
Lamar Jordan moved the sticks with a 13-yard run and delivered the go-ahead score after sprinting right up the middle for a 40-yard touchdown run to move out in front 35-30. He initially converted a two-point conversion after the touchdown, but UNM was flagged for holding, and the team had to settle for an extra point instead.
Jordan’s heroics put the Lobos in good shape for the win, but there was still 1:11 left on the clock, which ended up being plenty of time for UNLV.
Rogers converted a big third down and followed it up with a big 50-yard completion to get in scoring range. He capped the drive by hitting Kendall Keys on a 14-yard strike and went to the receiver again to pick up the two-point conversion, putting the Rebels ahead 38-35.
Lamar Jordan still had 28 seconds to work with to tie or win the game, but the Rebels were sitting on the deep pass trying to preserve the win themselves. The quarterback was almost intercepted after he threw into double coverage on first down and was picked off when he tried it again on the next play.
The Lobos only attempted four passes during the game but didn’t complete any of them.
UNLV was able to take a knee and allow the final seconds to tick off the clock and spoil “senior night” for the Lobos, sending UNM off with its sixth consecutive loss.
The Lobos ended the night with three rushers eclipsing the 100-yard mark, with Owens leading the cause with 164 yards on the ground.
New Mexico will end the season on the road against San Diego State. The game will take place on Friday, Nov. 24 at 1:30 p.m. and will be aired on CBS Sports Network.
Robert Maler is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers basketball, football and tennis. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Robert_Maler.
Cameron Goeldner is a freelance sports reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers men’s soccer, but also contributes content for baseball, basketball, football and track and field. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @goeldfinger.