Nolan Kohorst said he never dreamed of being in the spotlight with the game on the line during his placekicking career at Green Valley High School and UNLV.
“Actually, I’d rather have our team go out and put 20 up and have us win like that,” Kohorst said. “But I’m always willing to take that kick.”
He got his chance with five seconds to go on Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium, nailing a 44-yarder as time expired to give UNLV (4-2, 2-0 Mountain West) a wild 39-37 victory over winless Hawaii (0-6, 0-4).
“(First time) ever,” Kohorst said of his game-winning boot. “I didn’t play football until my sophomore year of high school. I had a couple at Green Valley where I’d kick a field goal with five minutes left and it would help lead us to a win. But it was never with five seconds left and we win like this.”
(STORY CONTINUES BELOW)
(VIDEO BY BARRY WONG)
It was UNLV’s 114th play of the game, just one off the NCAA record set by Northwestern in the 2010 Outback Bowl. It arguably was also the biggest play of fourth-year head coach Bobby Hauck’s career, keeping the Rebels on track for an elusive bowl game and avoiding what would have been a devastating loss.
“Originally when I looked up I thought I had pushed it,” Kohorst said. “I looked up, and then I looked up again, and then I started to run toward my teammates. It was pretty dead-center.”
“I wasn’t watching,” Rebel running back Tim Cornett, who finished with a game-high 162 yards rushing and two touchdowns, said. “I locked arms with a couple of my teammates and I just started praying. … I never saw it go through (the uprights). I just heard everybody on the sideline screaming so I knew he had made it.”
Meanwhile, Kohorst just started running.
“I didn’t know what to do,” he said. “So I just started running toward my team and they found me. About six guys got on top of me. I was pretty dizzy going back to the prayer (at midfield) from everybody hitting me. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
It was the fourth field goal of the game for Kohorst who also had connected on tries from 35, 19 and 41 yards.
The fact the game even came down to Kohorst’s final kick was a head-scratcher.
UNLV, which set a school record with 38 first downs and racked up 579 yards in total offense, seemingly had the game in the bag after Cornett scored on an 8-yard run with 13:11 remaining to increase it’s lead to 36-17. But the Rainbow Warriors scored 20 straight points in a 6:27 span capped by a 44-yard touchdown pass from Sean Schroeder to Chris Gant to take a 37-36 lead with 1:44 to go.
Suddenly, UNLV needed to drive for a game-winning field goal.
For a while it looked like Kohorst might not get the chance to be a hero. Facing a 3rd-and-10 on their own 46 and less than 30 seconds to go, Herring connected with Marcus Sullivan for just a two-yard gain. However, Hawaii defensive back Trayvon Henderson grabbed Sullivan’s facemask for a 15-yard penalty to give UNLV a first down at the Warrior 37.
“That’s the kind of thing that happens when you have a great player trying to make a play,” Herring said. “The defender tried to grab anything he could and ended up with his facemask. We’ll take it.”
“Usually those are five-yard penalties, not 15,” Hawaii coach Norm Chow said. “They (referees) did what they had to do.”
Three plays later, the Rebels found themselves with a first down at the Hawaii 26 with five seconds to go.
Enter Kohorst. All that was riding on this attempt was UNLV’s first four-game win streak since 2000, the last time the school played in a bowl game. Chow used his final timeout in an attempt to freeze Kohorst before the 44-yard attempt.
“I thought Coach Hauck called it originally because I love having a timeout there,” Kohorst said. “It gives me 30 more seconds to warm up and 30 more seconds to look at and evaluate everything instead of rushing out there and kicking it.”
When it was finally time for his attempt, Kohorst, after a perfect snap from sophomore tight end Jake Phillips and a good hold by Herring, nailed the first game-winner of his career.
“I kind of knew as he was following through (it was good),” Herring, the left side of his face bandaged from a nasty cut after a hard hit that spun his helmet around in the third quarter, said. “It was a great kick and he got all of it.”
“It was a hell of a football game,” Hauck said. “Glad the right team won and I’m proud of our guys. … I’m fired up for it.”
UNLV, which has won four consecutive games for the first time since 2000, travels to No. 21 Fresno State (5-0, 2-0) in a battle of West Division leaders in the Mountain West next Saturday night.
REBEL NOTES: Herring threw of his first interception of the season on the last play of the first half, snapping a streak of 183 passes over two-plus seasons without a pick. That tied the conference record set earlier this season by Wyoming’s Brett Smith. “I didn’t know that until just now,” Herring said when asked his reaction by a reporter. “That’s good to know. Thanks.” … The Rebels had two receivers go for more than 100 yards in the same game for the first time since 2006. Sullivan had a career-high 11 catches for 113 yards while Devante Davis had eight grabs for 141 yards. … Herring set career highs with 34 completions and 57 attempts and 385 passing yards. … Cornett finished the game just 40 yards behind school all-time rushing leader Mike Thomas (1973-74) and became only the second Rebel to reach 3,000 career rushing yards. … Kohorst tied the school record for kicking points in a game with 15 also held by Dillon Pieffer (vs. Hawaii in 2003) and another Green Valley product, Nick Garritano (1992 vs. Cal State Fullerton).