Friday, Nov. 22, 2013 | 4 p.m.
I’m confident that if UNLV’s president position weren’t in flux, this story would be about UNLV announcing an extension for football coach Bobby Hauck. Even with the uncertainty around President Neal Smatresk’s likely departure to North Texas, I expect Hauck’s extension to come before next Saturday’s regular-season finale at home against San Diego State.
It makes too much sense not to do it right now. Once UNLV turned a 21-point deficit against Central Michigan into a four-game winning streak, the expectation was Hauck would get a new contract. Defeating UNR pretty much guaranteed it would happen, and clinching bowl eligibility in Thursday's 41-21 win at Air Force with nine days before the next game makes this the time to announce it.
Smatresk’s news may have delayed that decision, but it hasn’t changed anything. Hauck has one year left on his current contract — annual salary: $350,000 — and it’s far easier to sell recruits with job security than uncertainty. The fact he can likely sell UNLV as a bowl-bound team doesn’t hurt, either.
I understand some points from the contingent of fans who aren’t happy to know that Hauck isn’t going anywhere. And we can all agree that after seeing far too many special teams fiascos, Hauck’s extension should include a clause that requires him to relinquish the reins as special teams coach.
But wanting him gone for in-game decisions ignores UNLV’s financial realities and doesn’t give Hauck enough credit for the team’s progress. Look, the Rebels’ victories are not impressive other than the fact they won.
Their opponents in those six games are a combined 17-46 entering the weekend, and the Mountain West won’t always be this bad. There’s a chance the bottom falls out again next season, but Hauck has earned his place as UNLV’s coach in the near future. And soon enough, UNLV will make it official.
Bowl game, bowl game, bowl game
The short answer to the question on every UNLV fan’s mind right now is I have no idea where the Rebels will play. They’re not even guaranteed a game yet, as a doomsday scenario with Fresno State losing one of its remaining games and other middling Mountain West teams like Wyoming and San Jose State all winning could potentially squeeze out UNLV.
However, that’s very unlikely, and we will have a much clearer picture after this weekend’s games. The Rebels could take care of it themselves, too, by defeating San Diego State next weekend.
Assuming they’re selected for a bowl game, UNLV’s destination really hinges on the outcome of that game. Lose and the Rebels are likely headed to the Hawaii Bowl, as I wrote last week. There’s also a small chance a 6-6 UNLV team could go to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl or the New Mexico Bowl.
Win and UNLV is likely headed to the Fort Worth Bowl, with an outside shot at the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego. The only game not on the table is the Las Vegas Bowl, which has the league’s top choice and would take either Utah State or Boise State, assuming Fresno State wins out and goes to the BCS.
Credit where credit’s due
• The Rebels put up so many impressive numbers and eclipsed so many season benchmarks that I didn’t have space to put them all in my story Thursday night. So here are a few worth noting:
Senior running back Tim Cornett, who finished with a career-high 220 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns, hit 1,000 yards for the season on his second of 35 carries. That made him only the second Rebels running back ever (Mike Thomas) to have multiple 1,000-yard rushing seasons.
Last year, Cornett finished with 1,232 yards and seven touchdowns on 242 carries. He’ll likely eclipse that rushing total this weekend as Cornett’s senior campaign so far includes 1,190 yards and a staggering 15 rushing scores on 236 attempts.
• Later in the game, junior receiver Devante Davis joined his former high school teammate in the 1,000-yard club. Davis finished the game with six catches for 75 yards.
They are the first running back-receiver duo in school history to eclipse 1,000 yards in the same season.
• And finally, most important of all, a UNLV team that entered September with a 23-game road losing streak finished the regular season 3-2 away from home. Although they were the better team in all three of those victories, the Rebels had to earn them and fight off comeback attempts or overcome their own mistakes.
My own preseason expectations for this team were tempered by that streak. I had to see them win away from home before I’d believe it, and now those disastrous road trips against bad teams feel like such a long time ago.