LAS VEGAS (AP) — Despite winning almost every offensive category, Minnesota found itself in triple overtime against UNLV Thursday night.
But MarQueis Gray threw two touchdown passes to John Rabe in overtime, and Jordan Wettstein hit a 32-yard field goal in the third extra session to lift Minnesota over the Rebels 30-27 in the season opener for both teams.
"You have to know when the pressure is on, to score the touchdown," Rabe said. "But when your number is called, you have to make that play. The coaches did a good job with the play calling to put us in position to score. I had confidence in MarQueis to make the right throws and the offensive line to do its job."
Wettstein's field goal was set up by Derrick Wells' second interception against redshirt freshman quarterback Nick Sherry. In the second overtime, Sherry threw a 6-yard TD pass to Devante Davis on fourth down to tie it at 27-27.
Rabe's first overtime score was from 10 yards down the middle to make it 20-20. Gray found him wide open from 25 yards out on the first play of the second OT.
"We missed a couple shots earlier to John down the pike when we had him open," Minnesota coach Jerry Kill said. "We don't get those preseason games, so we didn't execute very well on the offensive side of the ball. Our defense kept us in it. I thought we did a better job with field position in the second half."
UNLV's Tim Cornett had 127 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. He had an 18-yard score in the first overtime.
Gray finished 17 of 30 for 269 yards and an interception. A.J. Baker caught three passes for 101 yards, while Donnell Kirkwood rushed for 81 yards for Minnesota.
Sherry was 16 of 35 for 116 passing yards with three interceptions.
"He gets us into a triple overtime game with a Big Ten outfit," UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said of Sherry. "It probably means (our) quarterback did some good things. I thought we played very well on defense. One thing I can safely say at this point, we're going to be a hard hitting, physical football team. We turned the ball over twice. Those are critical mistakes. We are not good enough for that."
This was the teams' first-ever meeting.
Minnesota won the major offensive statistical categories, outgaining the Rebels 478-275, including 209-159 in rushing. But the Gophers were penalized for 86 yards to UNLV's 54.
The Rebels went ahead 10-7 in the third quarter on Cornett's 1-yard run with 1:52 left. Minnesota answered with two Wettstein fourth-quarter field goals from 32 and 21-yards. The second field goal was set up by Wells' interception return to the UNLV 25.
"I felt I had to prove myself. I had to make a point," said Wells, who switched during the offseason from cornerback to safety. "We were in a Cover 3, and I just broke on the ball (on the second interception). I don't think (Sherry) saw me."
Nolan Kohorst made a 35-yard field goal with 2:46 remaining to set up overtime.
It was the Golden Gophers' first overtime game since a win at Syracuse in 2009. The Rebels went to OT for the first time since a 2008 win over Iowa State at home.
The Rebels scored first on Kohorst's 39-yard field goal with 2:29 left in the first quarter. Minnesota answered with a James Gillum 16-yard rushing touchdown up the middle with 9:26 before halftime.