Las Vegas Northwestern paid a quiet tribute to late teammate Rashidi Wheeler, then went about the business of opening a promising season Friday night with a 37-28 victory over UNLV.
A preseason of grief and controversy finally behind them, the 16th-ranked Wildcats took advantage of some key second-half mistakes by UNLV, which made the game close with two long touchdown passes to Michael Johnson in the fourth quarter.
Zak Kustok ran for three touchdowns and threw for two scores as Northwestern overcame a shaky first half and a string of penalties to send UNLV to its second straight loss.
Each time Northwestern seemed to put the game away, though, UNLV came back to score on long passes to Johnson, who caught touchdown passes of 42 and 53 yards.
But UNLV failed to score after getting a first down on the 3on an 87-yard kickoff return by Dominique Dorsey.