Monday, Aug. 26, 2013 | 2 a.m.
Nolan Kohorst is half-joking, but you’re not sure which half to believe.
It’s a week before UNLV’s 2013 opener at Minnesota, and the Rebels’ senior kicker is standing about an extra point's distance from the entrance to Rebel Park. Just inside that entrance along a wall are plaques displaying the score and senior class of UNLV teams that defeat UNR. There hasn’t been a new one since 2004.
Kohorst expects a lot from his final year. Out of everything, though, if he can only have one thing go right over the next 12 games, it’s a pretty easy choice: beat UNR. Because, he said, a 1-11 record with that as the victory is still a decent year.
“My first Rebel game was when I wasn’t even a year old yet,” said Kohorst, a Green Valley High grad. “I bleed scarlet and gray, and I always have.”
Kohorst is a second-generation Rebel, so he comes by that passion honestly. His father, Keith, played offensive line in the 1980s. Kohorst has seen too many Rebels games to count and only watched one or two from the stands. Most of the time he was down on the sidelines with his dad, even using the locker rooms if he had to go to the bathroom.
That lineage and Rebel pride make him a great team ambassador, but it’s his right leg that makes him an asset. Last year, Kohorst connected on 12-of-14 field goals and 32-of-33 extra points. He’s hit 29-of-39 field goal attempts in his career.
For a team that could use every single available point, he’s become a dependable option up to 50 (his career long) or 55 yards depending on whom you ask and could end the season as the program’s career scoring leader. That’s probably a little more than coach Bobby Hauck expected when Kohorst became his first verbal commitment at UNLV.
“We all have a warm spot in our hearts for Nolan because he was one of the first guys to say he was buying in,” Hauck said.
Or that feeling could just be for Kohorst’s mother, Kim, who welcomed the coaches in for dinner on their official recruiting visit.
“I wanna say she made ribs,” Kohorst said. “That was at the point when coaches were still living in hotels, so they were happy to have a home-cooked meal for once.”
Kohorst had a scholarship offer from then-coach Mike Sanford, and he heard early on from UNLV assistant Kraig Paulson that the new staff would honor that commitment. Kohorst had to make sure that’s still what he wanted, too.
In truth it probably didn’t take much convincing, though Kohorst said Hauck’s emphasis on special teams — he’s been a head coach and special teams coordinator since 2003 — stuck out.
Kohorst, whose younger brother is now a Rebels team manager, committed on his visit to campus, completing the transition from fan on the sidelines to UNLV ball boy during high school to full-fledged Rebel. Success wasn’t immediate, and even as a junior, there were disappointments.
In the Rebels’ third game last year, against Northern Arizona, Kohorst missed a 30-yard attempt early in the fourth quarter, one of only two misses all year. If everything else played out the same, a make would have at least sent UNLV to overtime instead of a 17-14 loss.
And back when he was a freshman, there was a less important but more painful snafu during Kohorst’s first career road game, at Utah.
With the ball at the Utes’ 1-yard line and one second left in what would be a 38-10 loss, Hauck called for a fake field goal. Holder Trey Mays called the play on the field, but the right side of the line, the side Kohorst ran toward after taking a pitch, didn’t hear it. That meant there were two linebackers on the outside ready to crush him.
“So I decided I would be an athlete and cut it back in, where there were two other linebackers waiting for me,” Kohorst said.
UNLV scoring leaders1. M. Thomas (RB, 73-74) — 244
2. N. Garritano (K, 91-94) — 240 3. Dillon Pieffer (K, 00-03) — 231
4. S. Aguayo (K, 04-07) — 227 5. J. DiGiovanna (K, 83-85) — 193
6. H. Bailey (WR, 91-94) — 176 7. N. Kohorst (K, 10-13) — 170
One of many interested parties watching Kohorst take his lumps and improve over the years is College of Southern Nevada baseball coach Nick Garritano. Kohorst pitched for Garritano when both were Gators and now Kohorst is within striking distance of surpassing Garritano, regarded as the Rebels’ best kicker, on UNLV’s list of all-time leading scorers (right).
“I’ll be the happiest person in the world (if he passes me),” Garritano said. “... I’d rather have it be Nolan than anybody. I’ll give him a hug and tell him congratulations.”
If Kohorst matches the 68 points he scored last season, he would finish at 240 for his career, tied with Garritano for second place behind running back Mike Thomas.
The Rebels last year expected to break out but stymied themselves with five single-digit defeats. There’s a similar feeling of optimism around camp as they prepare for Thursday’s game and Year Four under Hauck.
If they’re going to follow through on that, Kohorst is likely going to be an important part. And if they achieve nothing else, they have a game up north on Oct. 26 that means everything for a local kid with a paint bucket and chisel on his mind.
“We can paint that cannon red,” Kohorst said, “and put our names up on that wall.”