For the New Mexico Lobos, this was a Senior Night to remember — only because the pain might be impossible to forget.
After Lobos senior quarterback Lamar Jordan put UNM in front by five points with a 41-yard touchdown run with 1 minute, 11 seconds left in the game, the UNLV Rebels drove 77 yards for the winning touchdown with 25 seconds left.
The heart-breaking, 38-35 loss Friday night drops the Lobos to 3-8 on the season, 1-6 in Mountain West Conference play. It was UNM’s sixth straight defeat.
UNLV, led by redshirt freshman quarterback Armani Rogers’ 404 yards of total offense, is 5-6 and 4-3.
On the game-winning drive, Rogers hit Darren Woods with a 50-yard pass, then found Kendal Keys for the 14-yard touchdown.
“That was a dagger, right there,” UNM coach Bob Davie said of the Rebel’s game-winning drive. “There were some stunned players and some stunned coaches in the locker room.”
The Lobos rushed for 482 yards, but ultimately all for naught. Three UNM players, Jordan (116 yards), junior Tyrone Owens (164) and senior Daryl Chestnut (145) surpassed the century mark.
New Mexico attempted only four passes and completed none.
It was the final game at Dreamstyle Stadium for Jordan and 19 other UNM seniors.
“That was definitely a heart-breaker, my last (home) game,” Jordan said. “I wanted to win. I wanted to do it for Markel (Byrd, a former teammate who died in a car crash in December 2015), and I wanted to do it for my senior mates.
“We just couldn’t get it done, didn’t do enough.”
A crowd announced at 14,744 watched an exciting, see-saw contest.
Trailing 27-21 in the fourth quarter, the Lobos drove 80 yards in six plays to take the lead. Runs of 27 and 35 yards by Chestnut set up the 2-yard touchdown run by Owens with 9:17 left in the game.
The Rebels took the lead right back. A 33-yard Rogers run and a 21-yard Rogers-to-Darren Woods Jr. pass set up a 40-yard Evan Pantels field goal, and UNLV led 30-28 with 6:11 left.
On what could have been the game-winning drive for UNM, the Lobos took over at their 38-yard line with 3:24 left in the game, setting up Jordan’s go-ahead touchdown.
New Mexico, down 24-14 at halftime, took the second-half kickoff and drove 82 yards for a score. The final 40 yards came on an option keeper by Jordan.
But UNLV responded with a 70-yard drive, aided by a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty, resulting in a 22-yard Pantels field goal,
The Lobos could not produce another scoring threat in the third quarter, managing just 27 yards and one first down on two possessions.
Starting in the third quarter and into the fourth, UNLV drove to the New Mexico 36. But on third-and-9 play, defensive end Kene Okonkwo threw Rogers for a 3-yard loss, forcing a punt.
The first half was a UNLV sandwich, with some Lobo jam in the middle.
The Rebels raced to a 10-0 lead with scores on their first two possessions, first on a 40-yard Pantels field goal, then on a 14-yard Lexington Thomas run at the end of an 82-yard drive.
But the Lobos, scoreless and held to one first down in the first quarter, gave the tiny gathering of fans something to cheer.
A 67-yard Owens run up the middle set up an 8-yard score from senior running back Romell Jordan.
After the UNM defense got its second consecutive stop, the Lobos drove 98 yards for a go-ahead touchdown. Runs of 30 yards by Chestnut and 22 by Owens got the ball into UNLV territory, and the Lobos reeled off three first downs from there before Chestnut scored from a yard out.
Quickly though, UNLV regained control. A 60-yard Thomas touchdown run down the right sideline put the Rebels back in the lead. And after a UNM 3-and-out, Rogers bolted 83 yards untouched up the middle on a quarterback draw for a 10-point halftime lead.