This time quarterback Nick Sherry and his UNLV teammates were happy to see the scoreboard clock at Sam Boyd Stadium hit zero.
After coming up just short in three straight losses to open the season, the Rebels stormed the field to celebrate after upsetting Air Force, 38-35, Saturday night before a crowd of 14,054.
“Man, it felt great when that clock hit zero,” Sherry said. “We all just went crazy on he sidelines.”
And for good reason.
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Gone was the frustration of losing eight straight games dating back to Oct. 29, 2011.
Gone was the frustration of losing five in a row to the Falcons (1-2, 0-1).
Gone was the frustration of losing their first three games of 2012 by a combined 14 points, including one in triple-overtime.
Instead, the Rebels (1-3, 1-0) could enjoy the fact that they finished the night in a tie for first place with in-state rival Nevada, a 69-24 winner at Hawaii, in the Mountain West standings.
“We’ve been fighting so hard these last three weeks,” said Sherry, who completed 22-of-32 passes for 250 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown pass to fullback William Vea with 6:56 remaining that increased the Rebels’ lead to 38-28 and proved to be the game-winner. “And to come so close and short every times really takes a toll on you.”
“Our guys deserved to win,” head coach Bobby Hauck said. “It was fun to be in that locker room. I’m excited for our kids.”
Running back Bradley Randle rushed for 66 yards and scored three touchdowns to lead the Rebels who also got another 100-yard game from Tim Cornett (114 yards on 17 carries, 1 TD). The Rebel defense, shredded for 302 yards and 28 points in the first half, settled down to hold the Falcons to just one touchdown and 140 yards after halftime while also forcing Air Force’s first turnover of the season.
Randle, the son of former major league infielder Lenny Randle, had scored just four touchdowns in his career entering the game. But 5-foot-7 junior had a pair of one-yard touchdown runs to go along with a 9-yarder which gave UNLV it’s first lead of the game, 31-28, late in the third quarter.
The Rebels, who overcame 352 yards rushing by the Falcons, extended the lead to 38-28 on Sherry’s touchdown pass to Vea with 6:56 to go.
Air Force, got to within 38-35 on a 3-yard touchdown run by quarterback Connor Dietz with 4:41 remaining but couldn’t get past midfield on its final possession in its quest for a possible game-tying field goal attempt.
“Our guys were determined and they came out in the second half and took the game,” Hauck said.
“I thought we got outplayed in the second half to put it mildly,” added Air Force coach Troy Calhoun. “That’s a credit to UNLV. I thought at the line of scrimmage they moved us on both sides of the ball.”
— Steve Guiremand/MyLVsports.com