Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012 | 11:09 p.m.
- Blog: UNLV plays best half of its season and holds on for 38-35 win against Air Force
- Bishop Gorman alum Scoggins the latest starter in UNLV’s continuing youth movement
- Keep your composure: Defending Air Force one of the more unique challenges in football
- Mountain Best: UNR tops the Sun’s initial Mountain West college football rankings
- UNLV needs better pickup lines as it enters difficult stretch of the schedule
- Rebels stuck in different version of same bad movie in 35-27 loss to Washington St.
- ‘We’re hard to love’: Bobby Hauck and Rebels dealing with reality of starting 0-2
- Bobby Hauck struggles to explain UNLV’s 17-14 home loss to Northern Arizona
- All UNLV Football Coverage
Don’t expect Bobby Hauck to be heading to the unemployment office anytime soon.
Many UNLV football fans have called for Hauck to be replaced as the Rebels’ football coach after their rough 0-3 start to the season, saying the program should be more improved in his third season at the helm.
Saturday night, the Rebels’ performance showed improvements are being made.
It wasn’t pretty, especially in the first half, but UNLV held Air Force to seven second-half points and played its best football of the season in a 38-35 victory.
At least for one night, they are a winning football team. And, at least for one week, they are a first-place football team — the game was the Mountain West Conference opener.
The Rebels, who had lost their initial three games by a combined 14 points, finally took the next step in their progression by closing out a game. Unlike the triple-overtime loss to Minnesota in the season-opener, or blowing a 14-point lead the following week in falling to lower-level Northern Arizona, UNLV didn't let this victory get away.
The Rebels learned to win.
That shows they are improved. And, for Hauck’s critics, a notch in the win column provides concrete evidence that the program is heading — slowly but surely — in the right direction.
While Hauck was deserving of the criticism after the three defeats, he’s equally deserving of praise after this one. Win or lose, he’s always had confidence in his players, giving them the belief they can be a winning program.
So, when UNLV fell behind 28-17 at halftime against Air Force, partially because it surrendered 238 first-half rushing yards, that confidence didn’t waver.
The second-half domination included UNLV gaining a first down on eight straight third-down plays in scoring 21 unanswered points. The Rebels controlled the clock with running backs Tim Cornett and Bradley Randle, they forced turnovers and punts on defense, and they started to play with a little swagger.
Air Force, which is known for its clock-draining running game, rarely loses the time-of-possession battle. In the fourth quarter, UNLV had the ball for 10 minutes, 42 seconds, helping it do what many considered unthinkable — win a close game and beat a quality opponent
Sure, it was just one victory. And the grim truth is the Rebels will have a hard time winning again until after Halloween. (Four of the next five games are on the road, where the Rebels have a 16-game losing streak dating back to 2009).
But, for one night, the players can enjoy a different outcome.
They raced onto the field as the clock expired in celebration, briefly shook hands with the Air Force players and headed toward the student section to sing the fight song. It’s a moment some believe won’t be duplicated much this season.
Then again, nobody thought they were improved enough to beat Air Force, which was a 10-point betting favorite.
Hauck needs time to turn the program into a winner. He deserves your patience. I’ve long argued that if he can’t turn perennial-loser UNLV into a winner, then it might not be possible.
Tonight, they are first place in the Mountain West Conference. Let’s enjoy the feat.