Brace yourselves UNLV football fans. Two words that have been missing for a while are now once again part of the Rebel vocabulary.
For the first time since 2008, the Rebels (2-2) can utter that phrase following a convincing 38-7 victory over Western Illinois (2-2) on Saturday night before a crowd of 13,017 at Sam Boyd Stadium.
Okay, so maybe back-to-back wins over Central Michigan and a FCS school that has now lost 12 straight to FBS programs won’t exactly get the folks in Tuscaloosa or Eugene nervous. But it marks the first time in Bobby Hauck’s four seasons in Las Vegas that Rebel players have done it.
Win streak. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?
“Losing is no good, but winning is great,” Hauck, who improved to 8-34 at UNLV, said. “These guys enjoyed it again tonight. It was fun to be in the locker room and it’s nice to win two in a row, something we haven’t done here.”
“It definitely felt good,” added senior quarterback Caleb Herring, who completed 14-of-20 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 57 more yards. “A win is always good and two in a row, like coach said, is something we haven’t done in a while. It definitely feels good especially going into (Mountain West) conference play and getting some momentum going.”
The last time UNLV won back-to-back games came when the Rebels defeated New Mexico (27-20) and Wyoming (22-14) at home six days apart (Nov. 8 and Nov. 13, 2008) under Mike Sanford en route to a 5-7 finish.
Herring called it a “team win” and it was hard to argue.
Tim Cornett and Northwestern transfer Adonis Smith both rushed for two touchdowns while Herring hit tight end Jake Phillips for another score. The defense, led by tackle Tyler Gaston (8 tackles, one sack) and linebacker Tani Maka (6 tackles, one interception), bent but didn’t break despite allowing 197 rushing yards. And punter Logan Yunker was outstanding again, averaging 44.7 yards on six attempts, including a 57-yarder and two inside the 20.
The Rebels, who led 17-0 at halftime and 31-0 with 10:26 to go in the third quarter, finished with 424 total yards, including 284 on the ground, and didn’t have a turnover or even a penalty.
“I was enthused about that,” Hauck said of not being flagged. “It probably means our young guys are figuring it out.”
“We all kind of fed off each other tonight,” Herring said. “Defense made plays, offense made plays and we just fed off of that. It was definitely a team win.”
Western Illinois, which actually led in the third quarter, 12-7, at Minnesota before eventually losing 29-12 a week earlier, didn’t score until late in the third quarter on a 11-yard pass from Trenton Norvell to wide receiver Joey Borsellino. That snapped a 62-0 run by the Rebels over a span of five quarters.
UNLV opens Mountain West play on Saturday night at New Mexico (1-2).
PHOTO BY BARRY WONG