LAS VEGAS -- UNLV's Omar Clayton threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Phillip Payne with 1:24 to play on Saturday night to give the Rebels a 28-24 come-from-behind victory against San Diego State in the season finale for both Mountain West Conference schools.
UNLV (5-7, 3-5) trailed 24-7 early in the third quarter before closing the game with 21 unanswered points for the win in coach Mike Sanford's final game. Sanford was fired last week after six seasons, but was allowed to coach in the final game.
Clayton started the rally for UNLV with a 7-yard touchdown run with 6:48 to play in the third quarter. Defensive back Terrance Lee trimmed the deficit to three points in the initial minute of the fourth quarter, returning an interception 40-yards for a score.
UNLV kicker Kyle Watson missed a 37-yard field goal with 3:29 to play that would have tied the game. The Rebels then forced San Diego State to punt and the received the ball near midfield with 1:58 left.
Clayton found Jerriman Robinson for a 35-yard completion on the first play of the drive to bring the ball to the San Diego State 17. He connected with Payne, who caught five passes for 107 yards, for the game winner on the next play.
After giving up a 29-yard touchdown run to UNLV's C.J. Trotter in the game's initial two minutes, San Diego State (4-8, 2-6) scored 24 unanswered points and appeared headed toward snapping a three-game losing streak.
Luke Laolagi returned an interception 55 yards for a touchdown with 1:45 to play in the first quarter to give San Diego State a 14-7 lead. It was the sixth straight season San Diego State has had an interception return for a touchdown against UNLV.
Quarterback Ryan Lindley, who passed for 336 yards, started the San Diego State scoring with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Robert Wallace midway through the first quarter. Brand Sullivan added a 1-yard touchdown run for the Aztecs in building the double-digit lead.