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Record-setting Wolfe paces UNLV to 34-17 victory over New Mexico

Senior wideout becomes MWC’s all-time leading pass-catcher as Rebels snap 20-game skid on the road in league play

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Greg Sorber / Associated Press

UNLV’s Ryan Wolfe scores a touchdown against New Mexico on Oct. 24, 2009, in Albuquerque, N.M. UNLV won 34-17.

UNLV vs New Mexico

In addition to Ryan Wolfe becoming the conference's all-time leading receiver, UNLV snapped its 20-game road losing streak in conference play Saturday night, beating New Mexico 34-17.

UNLV vs. New Mexico

UNLV's Channing Trotter, center, breaks free for a touchdown against New Mexico on Saturday in Albuquerque, N.M.  UNLV won 34-17. Launch slideshow »
The Rebel Room

UNLV-UNM Postgame: Lets be real, it's Ryan Wolfe's night

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Ryan Greene and Christine Killimayer talk about the night that belonged to UNLV senior receiver Ryan Wolfe, who became the Mountain West's all-time leading pass-catcher as the Rebels prevailed 34-17 at New Mexico. Plus, UNLV's improvement on some recent weaknesses and the challenge lying ahead next weekend in Fort Worth.

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  • Opponent: TCU
  • Date: Oct. 31, 1 p.m.
  • Where: Fort Worth, Texas
  • TV: Versus (Cox Ch. 67, HD 767)
  • Radio: ESPN 1100 AM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It was a melting pot of a win in many ways on Saturday night for the UNLV football team.

But between finally scoring with authority in consistent fashion in the red zone, avoiding turnovers and making momentum-building plays on defense, it was a fourth-quarter reception by senior Ryan Wolfe that ultimately told the story in the Rebels' 34-17 triumph over lowly New Mexico.

After making an awkward, diving grab for a 14-yard gain on third-and-10 inside New Mexico territory, the normally reserved wideout got up, flexed his arms, yelled and put on quite a display.

The Rebels were up by two touchdowns and en route to a relaxing finish.

"I don't know what that was," Wolfe said with a smile. "I guess it was kinda just the emotion and frustration that this team's had just coming out. We've been so close, been in close road games in the past and couldn't get over it, and at the same time we've played teams who were struggling and we didn't do a good enough job of taking advantage of that, so tonight it all came together and we were able to work with it."

The victory improved the Rebels to 3-5 on the season, and snapped not only what seemed like an endless four-game losing streak, but also an even lengthier 20-game skid on the road against Mountain West Conference foes.

A final look at the scoreboard, even if it came against the league's lone winless foe, made a good night great for Wolfe, who stole the show by becoming the MWC's all-time leading receiver. Career grab No. 263 came on a six-yard gain off of a swing pass from Omar Clayton in the second quarter.

He finished the night with 11 catches — giving Wolfe 270 for his career, in case you're counting — for 118 yards and a touchdown.

"Anytime you get to the top of a list, hopefully you'll be there a while so it's something you can look back on after you're done playing," said Wolfe, who broke the previous record of 262 held by San Diego State's J.R. Tolver, set in 2002. "I guess I've got a couple more games to add to it."

If UNLV's offense runs as smooth as it did for the better part of a cool, crisp Saturday evening in Albuquerque, he's got a better-than-good shot at getting that number up to 300.

After taking the opening kickoff, the Rebels' first two offensive possessions involved a total of 20 plays, 140 yards and two touchdowns. Both jaunts were executed in flawless fashion. UNLV seemingly took a 14-0 lead before the homecoming crowd of 24,021 could even get settled in, and finished off the half up 21-3.

New Mexico would close to within seven points in the second half at 24-17, but UNLV's lone punt attempt of the night wound up presenting the Rebels with a gift.

A muffed return was recovered by Terrence Lee at the New Mexico 11-yard-line, and two plays later, Mike Clausen put the game out of reach with a four-yard run.

"Our special teams were huge in this game," said UNLV coach Mike Sanford. "We felt like they were gonna be huge in this game."

Other areas in which UNLV came up huge were those in which the Rebels had been suspect of late.

The offense went without a turnover, and scored on five of its six trips into the red zone, with the only empty-handed occasion being in the closing minute, when they called off the dogs and took a knee to drain the clock.

Much of that efficiency came thanks to the steady hand of junior quarterback Omar Clayton, who came into Saturday night's contest with eight touchdown passes and an uncharacteristic nine interceptions to his credit in six starts this season.

He finished the night 20-of-30 for 204 yards and two touchdown passes, while rushing for 50 yards on six carries.

"We didn't have any turnovers — that was a relief," he said after playing his best football since the second half of a 34-33 victory over Hawaii back on Sept. 19. "I was real comfortable, ready to play, and I thought our whole team was ready to go."

As for the highly-criticized defense, it held New Mexico to 287 total yards, recorded four sacks, recovered two fumbles and broke up four Donovan Porterie pass attempts.

To boot, it forced four Lobos punts by allowing New Mexico to convert only five of its 12 third-down attempts, led by senior Jason Beauchamp's nine tackles, three stops for loss, two sacks and one forced fumble.

The unit built off of a promising showing in a home loss to Utah, and now has something even better to build off of as it prepares for its toughest regular season test — next Saturday at No. 8 TCU, which thumped No. 16 BYU in Provo earlier in the evening, 38-7.

"I think that we have started to fight back," said Sanford, who got a break from lingering job security questions in the afterglow of the win. "I think we fought back againt Utah, played the kind of defense we're capable of playing, and then I think we played even better tonight.

"We went out and took care of the things we needed to take care of. We didn't worry about the other team, all the distractions, everything that was going on with their coaching. All that stuff, it's unimportant to us. We needed to take care of business ourselves."

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  1. The Rebels beat HAWAII on September 19th...not Utah

  2. My bad. Fixed.

    -RG

  3. NM State beat this team on the road as well. So I dont look at this being something where you can say the team is back. Concerning still is with a lead, this team does not know anything about running the football. It is almost like it does not exist.

    Congrats to the President to hurry on the AD search and also making it a national search. UNLV needs an AD with big school credentials that understands that college football should be paying more of the bills than what is going on right now. Hopefully, this gets done quickly so that a new AD is in place when the season ends.

    BYU getting ESPN Game Day was a coup for the conference. I love the comment, even though they are hard to find on TV viewing todays game is something that you need to do. Versus in their contract mess with Direct TV does not look like it is moving forward. The Mountain broadcast of the UNLV game was horrible to listen to. Color commentator who could not put an educated sentence together all night. Send it back to the studio to find some former NFL guy with a tie straight from Marshalls is hard to swallow. It is a secondary BYU network the way that they put so many really bad people on the air to act like they are experts.

    Nice win by SDSU lets everyone know that they might have it figured out in San Diego. Of course after only one season.

  4. It's been so long.....remind me, what does it mean when we have more points than they do at the end of the game?

  5. Huge Rebel win in Albuquerque.

    Next week if Fort Worth won't be the same.

    Frogs are playing too well

  6. Gee, didn't see the game as I won't pay extra for the sports cable tier.

  7. Great game, I'm thinking we extend the coaches contract. Anyone?

  8. maybevegas,

    I'm with you on that one. Nothing like measuring our football program to the bottom tier of the MWC. If anything we might now be at the top of the bottom half (at least for this week). Kudos and contract extensions for everybody!

  9. As a native Las Vegan it is hard to say this but we need to lose to TCU, we need the money from the BCS game they would go to if TCU remains undefeated.

    Besides, it will help with the buyout.

    It was also funny during the broadcast of the game the sideline reporter had a segment about how the rebels have had a good recruiting class last year and how they have 6 players already with verbal commitments and four of them are 3 stars!

  10. I agree, I'm looking forward to our loss next week.

    We'll even still be bowl eligible! (rofl)

  11. Hey, at last we found somebody we could beat.

    If only we could play teams from "schools" like:
    National University, the University of Cosmetology, and the Five Star School of Gaming...
    Then we'd have a good record.

    Stay away from the powerhouse high schools, though.

    Too tough.

  12. @ned now that's funny!lmao

  13. I'm happy that the Rebels (especially the seniors) finally got this monkey off their back. However, let's not kid ourselves. Just because you can beat up the scrawniest kid in school doesn't make you a prize-fighter. Sanford and Sons: enjoy your one week reprieve from intense scrutiny. TCU is going to slap a healthy dose of reality upside your collective coaching headsets.