Las Vegas, NV (Sports Network) - Jordan Wettstein made good on a 32-yard field goal in the third overtime period to give the Minnesota Golden Gophers a thrilling 30-27 victory over the UNLV Rebels in the season opener for both programs at Sam Boyd Stadium.
Wettstein, who missed his first attempt of the night from 32 yards out in the second quarter, made good on three crucial kicks for the Golden Gophers (1-0) as they picked up the victory. Quarterback MarQueis Gray connected on 17-of-30 passing for 269 yards and two touchdowns for the visitors, the signal-caller also running for 68 yards on 17 attempts.
The Rebels (0-1) were paced by running back Tim Cornett who posted a game-high 127 yards and scored twice on 25 carries as he recorded the fourth 100-yard rushing game of his career. Freshman quarterback Nick Sherry hit on 16-of-35 for 116 yards and a score, but he was sacked twice and tossed a trio of interceptions, the last of which cost the Rebels dearly.
For the eighth time in the last nine years the Rebels were fielding a new starting quarterback in their opener.
A lackluster first quarter resulted in just three points on a 39-yard field goal by UNLV's Nolan Kohorst after the Rebels moved the ball just 22 yards on seven plays.
The Gophers scored their first points of the night in the second quarter when James Gillum finished off a six-play, 80-yard drive with a 16-yard touchdown run to make the score 7-3 which is where it stood at the break.
Capping a drive that was aided by several Minnesota penalties, the Rebels moved back on top with just under two minutes remaining in the third quarter when Cornett bulled his way into the end zone on a one-yard run.
Wettstein stepped in for the visitors after another one of their drives stalled and connected on a 32-yard field goal to make the score 10-10.
The Gophers regained the lead with 5:40 remaining in regulation when Wettstein knocked through a 21-yard field goal to make the score 13-10.
On the ensuing drive the Cornett raced down the left sideline into Minnesota territory and thanks to a 15-yard penalty for a horse collar, the hosts found themselves at the 18-yard line with just over four minutes remaining in regulation.
Unfortunately, UNLV couldn't move the ball any further and turned to Kohorst who booted a 35-yard field goal to knot the score at 13-13 with 2:46 left on the clock in the fourth quarter.
Opting not to take any risky chances with the game on the line, the teams went to overtime in order to decide the outcome.
The Rebels were given the first crack to score in the bonus session and Cornett was the one responsible for getting the home team into the end zone as he shot to the outside and scampered down the left sideline for the 18-yard rushing TD.
Cornett's scoring run was reviewed by officials as it appeared he stepped out of bounds before the ball broke the plane of the goal line, but the initial call of a touchdown was upheld and UNLV assumed a 20-13 lead following a successful PAT.
Minnesota then turned to Gray who, after gaining five yards with a run to the right, was jarred with a late hit on the sidelines and that moved the ball to the 10-yard line. From there Gray hit John Rabe with a 10-yard TD strike at and Wettstein locked the score at 20-20 as his PAT split the uprights.
UNLV elected to go on defense to begin the second overtime period and that may have been a mistake as the team failed to cover Rabe who caught another Gray pass on the very first snap along the right side and easily crossed the goal line to make the score 27-20 following the PAT.
Like Minnesota in the first overtime, the Rebels also benefited from a late hit out of bounds that moved the ball that much closer to the goal line, but UNLV needed a minor miracle on fourth down and the team got it in the form of a six-yard TD pass from Sherry to Devante Davis in the corner of the end zone. Kohorst slipped the extra point inside the right upright to move the game to a third overtime session.
Bradley Randle took ball on a draw play to begin the third OT and got the ball down to the 10-yard line for the home team. However, Sherry got greedy on the next play and threw an interception to Derrick Wells in the end zone.
The change of possession meant Minnesota could win the game with a field goal and on 4th-and-1 the team did just that when Wettstein converted the 32-yard effort.
The victory was the first on the road for Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill as he entered his second season with the program.Game Notes