LAS VEGAS (AP) — Following a career-performance last week, Wyoming's Brett Smith bested that by torching the UNLV secondary, completing 25 of 33 passes for 412 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Cowboys to a 28-23 win on Saturday.
Wyoming (4-7 overall, 3-4 Mountain West) has won three straight games after losing its previous four, while UNLV (2-10, 2-5) lost its second straight.
"He keeps getting better, which is good," Wyoming coach Dave Christensen said about his sophomore quarterback. "We want to continue to bring our passing game along. The great news is the majority of the passing game is back next year."
Smith, who threw for 374 yards last week at New Mexico, isn't doing too shabby this year.
He has completed 88 of 132 pass attempts for 12 touchdowns and 1,237 yards over his last four games and hasn't thrown an interception in 139 pass attempts.
Wyoming, which came into the game ranked No. 1 in the Mountain West and 18th nationally in fewest turnovers lost (12), enjoyed its third straight game without committing a turnover.
Wyoming did much of its work and all of its scoring in the first half, outgaining its host 381-182. Smith threw for 347 yards in the first half, as the Cowboys opened up a 28-17 lead at the break.
The Rebels appeared ready to steal momentum late in the third quarter, as quarterback Caleb Herring scrambled into the end zone on a fake field-goal attempt. An official review revealed Herring had fumbled the ball at the 1-yard line before he and the ball tumbled into the end zone. Ruled a touchback since the ball went out of the back of the end zone, Wyoming took over on its 20.
"Our guys were looking at it upstairs and they couldn't tell on their shot," UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said. "It comes down to Caleb putting the ball away, even if we have to go down on the one. That's pretty much a shame."
Herring was starting in place of freshman Nick Sherry, who was ruled out with a back injury before the game. The junior signal-caller finished with 268 yards on 22 of 26 pass attempts and two touchdowns.
UNLV made it interesting late in the fourth quarter, driving 80 yards in 15 plays over 5:33, as Herring connected with Trey Mays on a 5-yard touchdown strike to close the gap to 28-23. The two-point conversion failed.
The Rebels held Wyoming on its next drive to a three-and-out, as Smith was sacked on first down and threw incomplete passes on second and third down.
UNLV took over with 3:42 left in the game from its 21, and got into Cowboys' territory thanks to 25- and 22-yard passes from Herring to Devante Davis during the drive. But with about 1:30 remaining, Herring's attempt to Mays was broken up on the home sidelines, where replays revealed what might have been pass interference.
"It's interesting how we have been victimized in some games. They call it like they see it, but I don't agree with them all the time," Hauck said. "We probably made enough plays in the second half to win the game, but we didn't play well enough on either side of the ball in the first half. Everyone is tired of us being almost good enough to win."
UNLV outgained the Cowboys 244-126 in the second half.
"Obviously, we can throw the football," Christensen said. "We'll have to look at some things in the off-season and certainly find ways to be more efficient running the football, particularly at the end of a game when you go to run the football to run (the clock) out."
Wyoming's win snapped a five-game win streak for the home team in this series.
UNLV said goodbye to 15 seniors in its home finale.