When Bobby Hauck decides to hang them up as a football coach, he may want to take up comedy writing.
The fourth-year Rebels head coach didn’t only help bring an end to the school’s 13-year bowl drought with a 41-21 victory at Air Force Thursday night, he also came up with the glib line of the night, if not the year.
“I said this to the team: I said, ‘Hell has just frozen over. The Rebels are bowl eligible,” Hauck joked on his radio post-game show afterward.
On a night that started with temperature of 9-degrees and a wind-chill factor minus-11, you could also say UNLV (6-5, 4-3 Mountain West) put the frustration of 13 bowl-less seasons on ice.
With 30 miles-per-hour winds buffeting Falcon Stadium, the Rebels had to lean on the strong legs of senior tailback Tim Cornett who responded with a career-high 220 yards on 36 carries and scored a career-high four touchdowns, including a 46-yard dash inside left tackle with 2:03 to go to clinch it.
Senior Caleb Herring, once banished to wide receiver by Hauck after a shaky sophomore campaign, was masterful at quarterback, completing 15-of-18 passes for 141 yards while also rushing for 56 yards and two touchdowns. And the Rebel defense held Air Force’s vaunted triple-option offense to just 298 yards, including 228 rushing, 49 yards under its average.
This despite playing in conditions better suited for Eskimos than football – it was the coldest game played in UNLV history.
The Rebels put the heat on Air Force early, bolting to a 20-0 first quarter lead and extending the margin to 27-0 early in the second quarter on a seven-yard Cornett run.
But Air Force (2-9, 0-7), trying to avoid its first winless conference season in school history, battled back to within 12 points, 33-21, on a one-yard touchdown run by D.J. Johnson late in the third quarter.
The Rebels, who finished with 471 yards, including 330 rushing, and 30 first downs, eventually clinched it on Cornett’s final touchdown with 2:03 remaining.
All there was left to do after that was — what else? – for the players to give Hauck a nice icy Gatorade shower.
Yes, even on this frosty night.
“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 okay.”
After all, Hauck’s players also did a nice job of blocking out the frigid elements to pull off one of the school’s biggest wins in the last decade.
“It was not comfortable obviously,” Hauck said. “I think the wind chill was down around zero degrees. When we practiced yesterday in Vegas on our practice field it had to be about 75. (But) we have a mentally tough football team. We told them for three hours on Thursday night the cold doesn’t exist, and they did a really nice job of managing that and doing it. … Frankly I think our warm-weather guys responded better to it than their cold-weather guys did.”
Now the Rebels, who finish Mountain West play at home against San Diego State on Nov. 30, could be headed to the Hawaii Bowl to play a Conference USA team like Rice or East Carolina.
Wherever it is, it will be a whole lot warmer than it was on Thursday night in Colorado Springs.
Not that it matters.