UNLV Falls Short At Heart Of Dallas Bowl|
Jan. 1, 2014
By Drew Harris for Heart of Dallas Bowl
DALLAS- It's certainly been a long road for UNLV. This time, traveling more than 1,200 miles to the Heart of Dallas Bowl presented by PlainsCapital Bank and a de facto home game for North Texas proved to be too much for a rising Rebel program, which lost 36-14 on Wednesday afternoon at Cotton Bowl Stadium.
North Texas (9-4), located just 44 miles north of Dallas on Interstate 35E, opened up a game that was tied 7-7 at intermission with physical play on both sides of the ball. The Mean Green scored 22 fourth-quarter points to hand UNLV (7-6) its first bowl loss in four appearances.
UNLV had been up the challenge on the road three times this year, winning as many road contests in 2013 as it had in the previous eight seasons combined. That helped a 2-11 team become one that won seven games, making one of the nation's biggest turnarounds.
"This group I'm really proud of," UNLV head coach Bobby Hauck said. "It was fun for me watching them go out there and compete, celebrating with them. As I told them, it's tough not to look at the last three hours, but as we move forward into next week, I'm hoping we focus on what we've accomplished, and that's a lot."
Things looked good early on for the Rebels (7-6). Absent from a bowl game for 13 years, UNLV put points on the board on its opening possession.
Pinned deep after a North Texas punt, the Rebels took the ball 95 yards, slicing through the Mean Green defense on just eight plays. Senior quarterback Caleb Herring was a perfect 5-for-5 for 59 yards on the drive and found Marcus Sullivan in the end zone for the score.
After forcing a quick 3-and-out, UNLV's Keith Whitely muffed the ensuing punt, giving the Mean Green possession on the Rebels' 42-yard line. It was a momentum changer, as eight plays later Antoinne Jimmerson scored on a 1-yard touchdown run to tie the score, 7-7, with 1:47 remaining in the first quarter.
UNLV never got back on track offensively, and didn't score again until Jerry Rice, Jr., hauled in a Herring pass with 4:56 left in the game that cut North Texas' lead to 28-14.
The Rebels averaged better than 30 points per game on the year and hadn't been held under 24 points in any of its past five contests.
For the game, North Texas outgained UNLV 397-262. Tim Cornett, the Rebels' all-time leading rusher, was bottled up (33 yards on 12 carries) all afternoon.
"They've got a good defense," Hauck said. "They have pretty good players up front, and they did a nice job."
North Texas also converted 10 of 17 third-down opportunities, including 9 of 11 chances in the second half. That kept the UNLV defense on the field for more than 35 minutes.
"We played a lot of plays," Hauck said. "There were some long drives. We had a couple of drives where we were on the field a whole bunch, and probably (had) too many plays on defense in the second half."
Houston native Devante Davis, one of the nation's leading pass catchers, registered 10 catches for 96 yards in his return to the Lone Star State. Herring finished 22 of 41 with two touchdowns and an interception in his final collegiate game.
"As a leaving senior, I guess it's about the legacy," Herring said. "I think there's something that went into this year and that's gone into this program that is going to go for a long time because it is good to have pride in something. I think that's what we have now is our pride and our work ethic. I think that the team motto will echo out throughout the years."