All in all, not a bad week for fourth-year UNLV head coach Bobby Hauck.
First, he got a contract extension through 2016 with an increase in pay. Then on Saturday night, he got another Gatorade shower after the Rebels (7-5, 5-3) clobbered San Diego State, 45-19, on Senior Night at Sam Boyd Stadium.
Now the Rebels, bowl eligible for the first time since 2000, await their bowl destination that has been rumored to possibly be Hawaii.
There is a possible glitch in that the Mountain West has seven bowl eligible teams and only six bowl tie-ins. But with new UNLV athletic director Tina Kunzer-Murphy’s bowl ties – she is the well respected former executive director of the Las Vegas Bowl for ESPN Regional Television Inc. – along with the strong Las Vegas media market, it’s hard to see the Rebels being passed over.
The Rebels, who won seven of their final 10 games, probably couldn’t have done a better job of stating their case for being invited to a bowl than with the performance they had Saturday night.
“That we got our butts beat,” San Diego State coach Rocky Long said when asked what his message to his team was afterward.
Remember, the Aztecs (7-5, 6-2) hadn’t lost a November game in over two seasons, including two wins over Boise State, and were a missed field goal away against Fresno State from representing the West Division in this weekend’s inaugural Mountain West championship game in Fresno.
Saturday night’s game was really never in doubt as UNLV jumped out to a 24-7 halftime lead and increased the margin to 45-13 early in the fourth quarter.
Quarterback Caleb Herring, who probably would have an outside shot at conference player of the year honors if not for Fresno State’s Derek Carr, tied UNLV’s single-game record with five touchdown passes while competing 20-of-30 passes for 270 yards and no interceptions. Junior wide receiver Devante Davis feasted on the Aztecs’ one-on one coverage and caught eight passes for 171 yards and a school single-game record-tying four touchdowns.
“Our corners got chewed up,” Long said.
“Records are great, but the ultimate goal is winning and pushing ourselves toward the bowl game and that’s what we did,” Davis said. “I’m more proud of that than the record.”
It was also a big night for the Rebel defense which completely shut down San Diego State’s power running attack, holding 1,000-yard rusher Adam Muema to a puny 11 yards on 12 carries. The Aztecs finished with just 88 yards rushing and the Rebels also intercepted San Diego State QB Quinn Kaehler twice, including one by senior defensive lineman Tyler Gaston.
“Obviously we’re really fired up with the win and how we did it,” Hauck said. “San Diego State is a really good football team. They’re probably the hottest team in the Mountain West.”
Ah, make that “were” the hottest team Bobby.
Now the Rebels will wait and see how the bowl scenario works out.
“We’re a good team and we’re fun to watch, and we’re going to be an enjoyable group to have in that bowl game,” Hauck replied when asked to state his case on why UNLV should be invited to a bowl game. “We’re going to represent Las Vegas and the university well. People in the bowl game are going to enjoy having us.”
Check out some game highlights in Barry Wong’s Saturday sports wrap-up video below: