PROVO, Utah – Despite losing their fourth straight game on Saturday, 42-23, to BYU at LaVell Edwards Stadium, Bobby Hauck’s UNLV Rebels still have plenty to play for the final two weeks of an otherwise forgettable season.
Things like avoiding a last place finish in the Mountain West’s weak West Division. Or finishing the season with double-digits in the loss column.
Thanks to Hawaii’s 13-0 upset win at San Jose State earlier Saturday, the Rebels (2-9, 1-5) now find themselves all alone at the bottom at the West Division heading into their Nov. 22 “showdown” with the Rainbow Warriors (3-8, 2-4) at Aloha Stadium.
And Saturday’s nonconference loss to old Mountain West rival BYU (6-4) meant UNLV must sweep Hawaii and their Fremont Cannon finale with Nevada (6-4, 3-3) on Nov. 29 at Sam Boyd Stadium to avoid hitting the 10-loss mark for the fourth time in five seasons under Hauck.
Christian Stewart completed 18-of-32 passes for 325 yards and three touchdowns and Paul Lasike rushed for 70 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Cougars, who rolled up 592 yards in total offense and accepted a bowl bid to the inaugural Miami Beach Bowl on Dec. 22 at Marlins Park after the game.
UNLV was competitive early, trailing just 14-13 with three minutes left in the first half after the second of three Jonathan Leiva field goals, a 21-yarder.
But BYU came right back to drive 65 yards in five plays capped by a 4-yard touchdown run by Lasike to make it 21-13 at halftime. The Cougars then took control in the third quarter with three touchdown passes from Stewart, who began the season as a backup to injured Heisman Trophy candidate Taysom Hill.
“Their quarterback, Stewart, did a really nice job,” Hauck said. “We had him sacked four times tonight where we had a hold of him, but he got away and made plays.”
UNLV starting quarterback Blake Decker, who completed 10-of-25 passes for 90 yards, no touchdowns and an interception, left the game early in the third quarter after taking a nasty shot to the ribs. Freshman backup Jared Lebowitz finished up for the second straight game and completed 10-of-20 passes for 114 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown pass to Devonte Boyd in the third quarter.
Shaquille Murray-Lawrence finished with a game-high 143 yards on 20 carries, including a 68-yard touchdown run, to lead the UNLV ground game. The Rebels finished with 403 yards in total offense, including 199 rushing.
“I thought we fought our tails off, and our guys play really hard and they fire me up,” Hauck said. “It was fun being out there tonight. We’re warm weather guys, and I don’t think the elements (30 degrees at kickoff) affected us one bit. I thought our guys were tough and physical.”
Mitch Mathews had a game-high six receptions for 120 yards and a touchdown for the Cougars.
MyLVsports.com staff report