8:00 PM ET, November 1, 2003
University Stadium (NM), Albuquerque, NM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- UNLV could sense the momentum slipping away and the Rebels needed one more big play from their defense.
Jamaal Brimmer was their man.
Brimmer intercepted New Mexico quarterback Casey Kelly's pass with just over six minutes left in the game Saturday night and raced 62 yards for the game-winning touchdown in the Rebels' 37-35 win.
"Usually we play soft and just try to hit and tackle," Brimmer said. "It was just a good reaction play. I broke on the ball and made the pick."
Brimmer and safety Joe Miklos led a UNLV defense that made up for the Rebels' loss of starting quarterback Kurt Nantkes in the first half. Nantkes suffered a groin injury late in the second quarter and sat out the rest of the game.
Miklos recovered two fumbles -- one of which he returned 61 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter -- and had an interception. Brimmer also recovered a fumble as New Mexico turned the ball over six times.
"We made way too many mistakes to win a football game," New Mexico coach Rocky Long said. "We gave up kick returns, roughed punters, had six turnovers and didn't tackle very well in the first half. There were thousands of mistakes and that's why you don't win football games."
UNLV (5-4, 1-3 MWC) snapped a three-game losing streak with its first conference win and ended New Mexico's four-game winning streak.
"We wanted to come in, create a couple of turnovers, get the momentum and try to take the game over," said Brimmer.
The Rebels did just that.
UNLV converted most of New Mexico's mistakes -- three fumbles and three interceptions -- into points, but it was the Brimmer's interception that broke the Lobos' back.
New Mexico (5-4, 2-2 MWC) had cut the Rebels' lead to 30-28 on an 8-yard TD run by Kelly and the Lobos were in UNLV territory again when Kelly threw the ball right into Brimmer's hands. Brimmer raced down the right sideline for a 37-28 UNLV lead.
The Lobos, who would have moved into second place in the Mountain West Conference with a win, came right back with an 85-yard, 12-play drive, that ended with DonTrell Moore scoring from a yard out.
New Mexico then forced UNLV to punt and took over the ball at its own 20 with 3:00 remaining and no time-outs left. That last chance ended when Kelly's third-down pass was tipped in the air and intercepted by Rebels linebacker Ryan Claridge. UNLV then ran out the clock.
"We had some great highs and some bad lows," UNLV coach John Robinson said of his team gutty performance. "Even though they (UNLV defense) were on the deck a few times, they kept getting up and making plays."
Miklos hardly had to break stride in his second quarter return of a fumble by Moore. Moore was hit and the ball bounced out of his hands and into Miklos'.
New Mexico finished with 578 total yards, but couldn't overcome its mistakes.
1`We got ourselves in a hole in the first half," Moore said. "It's unfortunate when you play horrible and that's how we played."
Nantkes was replaced by sophomore Scott Turner, the son of Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator Norv Turner. The younger Turner completed just 3 of 6 passes for 12 yards. Kelly, meanwhile, completed 23 of 38 passes for 408 yards, but the Lobos could not overcome the turnovers.
Moore rushed for 130 yards on 17 carries, the most yards giving up by UNLV to an opposing back this season. Moore, who fumbled twice, also threw a 21-yard halfback option touchdown pass to Adrian Boyd.
Boyd caught 9 passes for 103 yards and Dwight Counter had 6 catches for 171 yards, including a 71-yard TD reception from Kelly.
UNLV's Dillon Pieffer kicked three field goals, including a career-best 50-yarder with 2:24 left in the third quarter. That score was set up by a roughing the kicker penalty on the Lobos.
It was a crucial win for a UNLV team that won four of its first five games before slumping in October.
"Just for proving that you can win again," Robinson said. "After losing three, we're back in the hunt."