The UNLV Rebels (3-1), who let a 14-point lead evaporate in the final 7:44 of regulation, rebounded to knock off Iowa State, 34-31, in overtime on Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium.
Payne's leaping 25-yard touchdown grab behind cornerback Allen Bell and safety James Smith in overtime won it for the Rebels after the Cyclones (2-2) had taken their first lead of the game on a 37-yard field goal by Grant Mahoney to begin the first overtime session.
Iowa State had forced overtime with an impressive 98-yard, nine-play drive capped by a 28-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Austen Arnaud to wide receiver R.J. Sumrall with just three seconds remaining.
After Mahoney's field goal made it, 31-28, UNLV quarterback Omar Clayton lofted a perfect throw over the leaping Bell to a streaking Payne in the left corner of the end zone. The 6-foot-3, 185-pounder from Western High, whose highlight-reel one-handed touchdown grab with 18 seconds left in regulation forced overtime at Arizona State a week earlier, leaped high and caught it. He then quickly whirled and threw the ball into the stands.
Moments later, Payne was hoisted on the shoulder of his teammates who gave him a victory ride back to the center of the field where many of the crowd of 25,567 cheered wildly.
"It was fades on both sides," Payne said. "I don't even think I was the primary receiver. But Omar put it up and had faith in me and made a great throw. I just went up and made a play."
"It was a tremendous play," UNLV coach Mike Sanford said. "And probably in retrospect we probably should have been doing that all game. But it happened at the right time … Phillip Payne is, as everyone knows, a tremendous player. And he makes plays and he goes and gets the ball."
As far as great catches go, Payne's catch this time wasn't nearly in the same class as his one-handed grab at Arizona State. However, the results were just as big.
It is the first time UNLV has defeated two schools from BCS conferences in the same season in school history. And the Rebels, who entered the season 1-7 in overtime games, has now won back-to-back overtime contests.
"I think if people before the season would have said that we would be 3-1, I think they probably would have thought you were nuts," Sanford said. "But there is a great thing about this team right now … they care about each other, they love each other, they believe in each other, and they expect to win."
Payne to the rescue again in OT, 34-31
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