Monday, Nov. 9, 2009 | 2 a.m.
Ryan Greene, Christine Killimayer and Rob Miech break down a 35-16 victory for the Rebels over Colorado State which was a bit tough to watch at times, but at the end of the day kept UNLV's 2009 season relevant for at least another week. Plus, a sneak peek ahead to next week's test at Air Force, where it's do-or-die all over again.
- Opponent: Air Force (6-3)
- Date: Nov. 14, 3 p.m.
- Where: Colorado Springs, Colo.
- TV: The Mtn. (Cox Ch. 334)
- Radio: ESPN 1100 AM
- All-time series: Air Force leads, 10-4
As I sat in the Bono seats — the rickety bleachers at the summit of the stadium, which, with rare exception, get occupied only when U2 is in town and never, ever get occupied when the UNLV football team is in town — I had a thought that might be frightening to whatever devoted Rebel football fans remain.
The UNLV football team was doing what it was expected to do for the second time in three weeks — three if you count getting blown out at TCU. The Rebels actually were routing an inferior opponent, putting a 35-16 beatdown on hapless Colorado State (where art thou, Sonny Lubick? Where art thou Bradlee Van Pelt?) two weeks after putting a 34-17 beatdown on hapless New Mexico. Suddenly the Rebels weren’t looking so hapless themselves.
UNLV’s record has inched ahead to 4-6 — which, true, is not what you want at this time of the year. But it looks a lot better than a lot of us thought it was going to appear after the Wyoming, Nevada-Reno and Brigham Young debacles, which is what I was thinking from my perch atop the Bono seats.
I was in the nosebleed section and so my nose began to bleed. And my head began to spin. And nearly explode.
Usually Mike Sanford and Ryan Wolfe manage to confuse and confound us once a year by beating somebody they have no business beating, such as Utah two years ago or Arizona State last year, even if, at the end of the day (and especially at the end of the season), the Arizona State win didn’t seem all that impressive. The Sun Devils would go on to lose six consecutive games. But, if you will recall, a lot of us were ready to proclaim the UNLV program fully turned around the morning after that victory in Tempe and anoint Sanford a college football deity, or at least one of its fairly decent coaches.
So with the Rebels meandering closer to the edge of the road to respectability than they have been since splitting close games against Oregon State (which isn’t that bad) and Hawaii (which isn’t that good) way back in September, what happens if they go into shock-the-world mode and win at 6-3 Air Force on Saturday? And then come back from the bye week and beat San Diego State?
That’s the scary thought. That’s what made my head spin and nearly explode.
That would make Mike Sanford and Ryan Wolfe 6-6. That would make Mike Sanford and Ryan Wolfe bowl eligible. That would cost UNLV money, because if you think UNLV fans are going to purchase the 12,000 tickets or whatever the Penny Ante Bowl requires from its participating teams so one can finish 6-7 on the Mizlou sports network you weren’t sitting in the Bono section against Colorado State and examining the broad expanse of empty aluminum bleachers below.
But should the Rebels finish 6-7 it also would give President Neal Smatresk and interim athletic director Jerry Koloskie or his full-time successor something to think about.
Everybody reckons that should Mike Sanford and Ryan Wolfe go to a bowl game it would be a great reward for the latter, who quietly has become one of the most outstanding pass receivers in UNLV history, although, if I’m doing the reckoning, not quite as outstanding as Keenan Mc-Cardell.
And everybody seems to reckon that would enable Sanford to keep his job for one more year. Frankly, I don’t remember anybody with the authority to make such a decision actually saying it. It could be just a presupposition. It could be that we in the press just made that up.
Maybe David Ashley said it, but the former UNLV president is gone. Maybe Mike Hamrick said it, but the former UNLV athletic director is gone, too.
The last time Neal Smatresk weighed in on Sanford’s job approval rating, he said he was considering it week by week. That was, well, weeks ago. Jerry Koloskie said his position was he wouldn’t have one, at least not while the Rebels are still bowl eligible. He still doesn’t have one. He also didn’t say, at least not that I recall, that Sanford’s job was safe if he produced the minimum requirement of victories recommended by the Penny Ante Bowl committee.
It shouldn’t be, not when you consider all those empty seats and that the Rebels are no closer to respectability — at least not against the good teams and Wyoming — than they were when Sanford took over five years ago.
But think about this: Had Sanford and Ryan Wolfe not stubbed their collective toes at Wyoming and were they to play UNR, BYU and Utah at the end of the season instead of in the middle of it, they might be, like, 7-3 now, and somebody might be extending Sanford’s contract again for no apparent reason, as Hamrick did last year.
It’s a scary thought that can make your nose bleed and head spin and/or explode, if you let it.