UNLV closer to postseason after dominant game
Bobby Hauck had the Gatorade poured on him a few times already this season.
There’s a good chance he may never get a colder bath in his life. But this one may prove to be the most satisfying.
Despite letting a 27-point lead trickle down to 12 points in the coldest game UNLV has ever played in, running back Tim Cornett’s 220 yards and four touchdowns pushed the Rebels (6-5, 4-3) to bowl eligibility for the first time since 2000 with a 41-21 win over Air Force Thursday.
“I said this to the team: I said, ‘Hell has just frozen over. The Rebels are bowl eligible,’” Hauck said during his postgame radio show.
Hauck should be lucky he didn’t freeze along with it. The game in Colorado Springs at Falcon Stadium kicked off with a temperature of 11 degrees, with a wind chill of minus-7 degrees. Getting that Gatorade bath should lead to hypothermia.
“I can’t believe they did that to me,” Hauck said. “But you know what? They don’t do it to you when you lose so it’s OK.”
UNLV came into Thursday’s game as twopoint underdogs, mainly due to the freezing weather, but the Rebels played like a team that’s expected to play against a two-win Air Force (2-9, 0-7) team.
The Rebels held control of the game from the get-go, holding the Falcons to a three-and-out and blocking an Air Force punt that gave UNLV the ball at the 30-yard line.
Two plays later, Cornett went untouched for 22 yards for his first touchdown of the day.
UNLV’s senior running back was expected to carry the ball more often because of the icy conditions and had 36 of them against the Falcons — good for third most in school history. Cornett also became the second Rebels running back to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark in more than one season.
Air Force’s rushing offense, which ranks 11th in the nation at 272 yards per game, had a tough time against UNLV’s front seven. The Rebels held the Falcons to 113 rushing yards in the first half, while UNLV outgained them with 168 yards on the ground.
The Rebels took a 33-14 lead into halftime, but Air Force trimmed the lead to as little as 12 points thanks to a 1-yard touchdown run by D.J. Johnson in the third quarter. UNLV had a chance to ice the game in the fourth quarter after going 92 yards in 14 plays.
That was, until Shaquille Murray-Lawrence — who had been MIA since fumbling against Nevada-Reno — fumbled at the 1-yard line and gave Air Force the ball back.
The Falcons couldn’t capitalize, and Cornett — the man who started the scoring proceedings — ended it with a 46-yard touchdown with 2:06 left.
Now, what next?
They haven’t been guaranteed a bowl berth, but after losses from San Jose State and Colorado State this weekend, the Rebels’ chances look more promising. The Mountain West gets six guaranteed bowl spots, seven if Fresno State remains undefeated and goes to a BCS game.
San Jose State plays Fresno State on Friday, and the Spartans need to win to become bowl eligible. If they do, UNLV would more than likely need to win Saturday to ensure its safety.
Wyoming escaped with a 59-56 overtime win over Hawaii on Saturday to keep its bowl hopes alive.The Cowboys at 5-6 would need to beat a Utah State team that can clinch a spot in the conference title game against Fresno State with a win.
Colorado State also needs one more win, sitting at 6 – 6, and plays Air Force Saturday.
But the Rebels can put any bowl game doubt to rest with a win on Saturday against San Diego State at 7:30 p.m. at Sam Boyd Stadium.
At least it’ll be warmer.