Las Vegas Sun

April 15, 2024

UNLV football heading to Phoenix for Guaranteed Rate Bowl

UNLV beats New Mexico

Eddie Moore / The Albuquerque Journal via AP

UNLV’s Ricky White, left, looks back at New Mexico’s Noa Pola-Gates, right, while running a reception into the end zone during the third quarter of an NCAA college football game in Albuquerque, N.M., Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023.

UNLV football enjoyed a landmark turnaround in 2023, winning nine contests and making it to the Mountain West championship game for the first time in program history. And the historic season is not over yet, because the Scarlet and Gray are heading to Phoenix to play in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl on Dec. 26, where they will take on Kansas.

The bowl matchup was announced on Sunday afternoon.

It’s the first postseason berth for UNLV since the 2013 team went 7-5 in the regular season and earned a trip to the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

UNLV clinched bowl eligibility way back on Oct. 21 with a last-second 25-23 victory over Colorado State. That improved the Scarlet and Gray to 6-1 under first-year head coach Barry Odom.

UNLV finished 9-3 overall and 6-2 in Mountain West play, which was good enough for homefield advantage in the MWC title game. The Scarlet and Gray were defeated by Boise State, 44-20, at Allegiant Stadium on Saturday, but will still get to close their season on a high note in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl.

At a press conference announcing the bowl matchup, Odom focused on the importance of making it a memorable holiday trip.

“I’m thrilled for our student-athletes,” Odom said. “It will be a great bowl experience.”

Odom also touted the value of the extra practices leading up to the bowl game as a springboard into the 2024 season.

“We’ll continue to develop and move our program forward in our practices,” he said. “That’s always great and healthy for teams as you’re building foundationally.”

Kansas should make for an intriguing opponent. The Jayhawks are a high-scoring squad (33.6 points per game) that broke into the Top 25 this year while going 8-4, including a 5-4 mark in the Big 12.

In a quirk of scheduling, UNLV is set to face Kansas in non-conference play in 2024, meaning the two programs will meet twice in a span of five or fewer games.

UNLV’s 14th game of the season will give junior Ricky White a chance to extend his program record for receiving yards in a single season. White broke the previous record on Saturday and now has 1,386 yards on the year.

More than the record, though, White wants to achieve another round number: a 10th victory.

“We’d to go into next season with that mindset and the confidence knowing we had a 10-win season,” White said. “This is definitely a big game for us.”

Sixth-year senior Amani Trigg-Wright has been with the UNLV program for a long time, but the team captain couldn’t remember where he was or what he was doing at the end of the 2013 season when UNLV last played in a bowl game.

“Man, after coming in in 2018 and leaving here my final year with a bowl game appearance, it’s a blessing,” Trigg-Wright said. “You can’t ask for much more.”

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.

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