Rebel Las Vegas Bowl IX Notes
UNLV (7-5, 4-3 MOUNTAIN WEST)
ARKANSAS (6-5, 3-5 SEC)
UNLV (7-5) prepares to meet Arkansas (6-5) in Las Vegas Bowl IX on Thursday, Dec. 21 ... The game will be televised by ESPN2 but will be blacked out in Southern Nevada unless it is sold out ...The Rebels earned their first bowl bid in six years by reaching seven wins with a 34-32 win at Hawaii on Dec. 2 ... That win made UNLV the third Mountain West Conference team to earn a bowl spot this season as league champ Colorado State heads to the Liberty Bowl and second-place Air Force will play in the inaugural Silicon Valley Football Classic ... UNLV is winless in two previous games vs. Southeastern Conference opponents, having lost 62-3 at Tennessee in 1996 and falling 43-40 in overtime to Ole Miss in Game Eight earlier this season on Oct. 28 ... This will mark the first time an SEC team has played at Sam Boyd Stadium ... Arkansas is undefeated vs. members of the MWC, having a 3-0 record vs. Colorado State, 2-0 vs. New Mexico and 1-0 vs. Air Force ... This will mark the first time the Razorbacks have played a MWC team since downing CSU 31-20 on Sept. 29, 1990, while the Hogs were a member of the Southwest Conference and the Rams were part of the WAC ... Interestingly, the Rebels will open the 2001 season playing at Arkansas on Sept. 1 because UNLV's previous head coach, Jeff Horton, set up a series to play his former school ... At 4-3 in the league, the Rebels finished in a tie with BYU for third place in the MWC ... The Rebels won four conference games in one year for the first time since going 5-1 in the Big West Conference in 1994 ... A year after going winless at home, UNLV went undefeated and untied in the regular season at Sam Boyd Stadium for the first time since 1977 ... UNLV's seven victories this fall are the most for the program since going 7-5 in 1994 and a win in the bowl game would mean the biggest victory total since going 11-2 in 1984, ... UNLV has won four more games (10-13) in Robinson's first 23 games as coach than the program's previous four seasons combined (6-39 from 1995-98).
UNLV is 2-0 in bowl games after taking the California Bowl title in Fresno, Calif., 30-13 over Toledo on Dec. 15, 1984, and then winning the Las Vegas Bowl 52-24 over Central Michigan on Dec. 15, 1994 ... Arkansas is making its third straight bowl trip and the Las Vegas Bowl will be the 31st in the school's history. The Razorbacks have a record of 10-17-3 in bowl games. Last year's 27-6 Cotton Bowl win over Texas was the school's first postseason victory since 1985.
Although this will be his first bowl while leading the Rebels, UNLV head coach John Robinson has the highest winning percentage in NCAA Div. I-A history when it comes to bowl games (with a minimum of eight games). His 7-1 total puts him at .875. The only other two active coaches ranked in the top 10 are Florida State's Bobby Bowden at No. 2 (.761) and Penn State's Joe Paterno at No. 10 (.683). Following are Robinson's bowl results:
SEASON BOWL RESULT
With his four tackles at San Diego State, strong safety Randy Black became his school's all-time tackle leader with 292 and the senior finished with 294 for his career after tacking on two more at Hawaii. The Las Vegas native was battling junior linebacker James Sunia to see who would finish 2000 as the UNLV Takedown King before Sunia suffere a season-ending knee injury in Game Five. Black broke his hand vs. Wyoming, causing him to miss seven quarters of action before coming back and registering 10 tackles at Utah. Black, who had a career-high 87 takedowns in `99 while also playing seven games at speed linebacker, moved all the way from seventh place to second in that game. Black's four tackles vs. UNM left him one behind Darnell Pickens (1984-87), who finished with 289. Sunia, who will finish the year with only 26 tackles, led the team for the last two seasons. The linebacker entered the season averaging 10.6 tackles per game in his career and will go into his senior year in 2001 in ninth place with 260. Two now-former Rebels -- DB Quincy Sanders at No. 7 and LB Jerrad Pierucci No. 7 -- battled their way up the same list a year ago.
UNLV CAREER TACKLE LEADERS*
2000 HONOR ROLL
UNLV, which had a record number of preseason honors including a school-record two players earning All-America nods (punter Ray Cheetany and cornerback Kevin Thomas), had six players earn first-team All-Mountain West Conference 2000 postseason honors through various sources (coaches poll, media poll, Football News and The Sporting News). Leading the way for the Rebels was senior offensive tackle John Greer, who on the league's official coaches team was one of only three unanimous selections and the only one on offense. "It means a lot to me that all eight head coaches voted for me," Greer, who has started all but one game of his four-year career, said. "I think that says something about our entire offensive line this season." Joining Greer on at least one first team were tailback Jeremi Rudolph, junior cornerback Kevin Thomas, junor defensive end Anton Palepoi and senior wide receiver Nate Turner.
RANDY BLACK, SENIOR SAFETY ALL-MWC - Media (Second Team) - The Sporting News (Second Team) - Coaches (Honorable Mention)
J-DUB FINISHES SIXTH
After entering the Ole Miss game with only 17 rushing yards on the year, senior FB James Wofford exploded for 138 yards on just 10 carries for his first 100-yard rushing game in nearly two years. In that game, he climbed from 10th place all the way to seventh on UNLV's all-time rushing list. After adding 17 yards on four carries vs. UNM, Wofford moved up to sixth and his six yards at Hawaii meant the co-captain officially finished with 1,861 yards -- just 64 short of tying Ickey Woods in fifth with 1,925.
UNLV CAREER RUSHING YARDS
ON THE OFFENSIVE: With 339 points scored through 12 games (28.25 per game), the Rebels finished with their highest scoring total since racking up 387 points in the 1984 season ... UNLV has totaled more than 400 yards in offense in five of 12 games this fall after failing to hit the mark even once a year ago ... The Rebels had 24 rushing TDs, which is 10 more than the previous two seasons combined and more than any entire season since posting 24 in 1981 ... After going 55 games and more than four years without a two-point conversion, UNLV has tied a school record with four successful two-point tries this year. The Rebels were 4-of-6 (66%) on two-point attempts in `00 ... Jeremi Rudolph's 159 yards at Hawaii were just enough to make him only the fifth UNLV player in history and first since Ickey Woods in 1987 to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. Rudolph's senior campaign included a MWC-leading six 100-yard games, including five of his last six and his 26 carries vs. the Warriors marked the first time he had at least 20 attempts in a game this fall. Paired with his two 100-yard games from 1999, Rudolph finished tied with Raymond Strong (1976-77) for sixth-most century-mark games in a career. He also moved into a tie with Tony Lewis (1983-85) for 10th on the school's career rushing list with 1,698. Rudolph was the first Rebel to earn six 100-yard games in one season since Woods had nine in 1987 to lead the nation in rushing with 1,658 yards ... When three Rebels ran for more than 100 yards each at Hawaii -- Rudolph 159, Kevin Brown 139 and Jason Thomas 126 -- it marked the second time in school history that UNLV had pulled off such a feat. The first time came 20 years ago when Michael Morton 146, Keyvan Jenkins 107 and Artis Carhee 102 helped the Rebels run to a 72-7 win over New Mexico on Nov. 1, 1980 ... UNLV boasted a stunning 13 of the 28 century-mark games in the MWC this season. UNLV had four different players gain 100 yards in a game this fall: Rudolph (six), Brown (four) James Wofford (once) and QB Thomas (twice). Rudolph was the only Rebel to pass 100 yards in a game in 1999, doing it twice ... Nate Turner (66) finished with 51 percent of the team's receptions (129) this season ... Turner has at least two receptions in all 23 of his games at UNLV.
FOR THE DEFENSE: UNLV outsacked its opponents 30-24 this fall. In 1999, the Rebels were outsacked 31-15 by opponents ... The 30 sacks were the most in a season since the team had 41 in 1994 ... Anton Palepoi led the Rebels with eight sacks ... Preseason All-American Thomas led the MWC with 14 pass breakups ... Senior SS Randy Black tied for the league lead in forced fumbles with three ... UNLV held 11 of its 12 opponents to 200 yards or less rushing this season. Air Force picked up 219 yards in Game Four but the Falcons still finished 118 yards below their average heading into the game ... Former WR Sam Brandon won the team's tackle title with 82 while playing his first season at safety. He beat out former Arizona LB Shanga Wilson, who had 79.
SPECIAL (TEAMS) DELIVERY: Troy Mason ranked seventh in the nation in punt returns with an average of 16.4 on 23 attempts, including an 84-yard return for a score vs. UNM that ranked as the longest in the MWC this season and the school's second longest ever ... Freshman walk-on kicker Dillon Pieffer replaced senior punter Ray Cheetany on kicks after the Rebels missed five PAT attempts, including four blocks, in the first six games. Pieffer has nailed six of seven field goal attempts and is a perfect four-for-four from 30 yards out or longer ... Overall, UNLV was 11-of-14 on field goals this season, which is more than five times the team's total from a year ago (2-of-5) and the most since hitting 21 of 26 in 1994.
TV RECORD FALLS
WIth its trip to the Las Vegas Bowl, UNLV will make its second appearance of the year on ESPN2. Rebel football has already appeared on television 10 times this season, which more than doubles the school-record four appearances in 1999. The program enjoyed its first-ever appearance on ESPN2 when the Rebels traveled to Colorado State on Oct. 14. The previous time UNLV appeared on any national television network was Las Vegas Bowl III - a 52-24 victory over Central Michigan on Dec. 15, 1994, which was seen live on ESPN. The 12-game schedule also included an ABC regional date on Sept. 30 when the Rebels downed Air Force. UNLV had a total of three games shown by ESPN+Plus as part of the 23-station regional network game-of-the-week package, which once again was carried locally by KFBT Gold 33 (Cox Cable 6). Those games were at BYU, at Utah and at home vs. New Mexico. SportsWest Productions showed three games: vs. UNR Oct. 7, vs. Wyoming Oct. 21 and Nov. 25 at San Diego State. The season finale at Hawaii was a late addition to the TV slate and Southern Nevada was able to watch the Rebels earn their bowl bid live on Metro 48 courtesy of Cox Communications, which picked up the Warrior feed from KFVE-TV in Honolulu.
GAME 12 IN REVIEW
UNLV 34, HAWAII 32
SLOPPY REBELS HOLD ON FOR BIGGEST WIN IN YEARS
HONOLULU -- (Dec. 2, 2000) UNLV (7-5) thwarted a Hawaii (3-9) two-point conversion attempt with under two minutes left to hang on for its first victory in Honolulu isince 1979, 34-32 before 34,792 fans at Aloha Stadium. With the win, the Rebels guaranteed themselves their first winning record since 1994 and accepted a bid to Las Vegas Bowl IX in the post-game lockkeroom. The shootout began with UNLV scoring on a Jeremi Rudolph one-yard run set up by a Randy Black interception. The Warriors came right back to tie the score before UNLV coughed up one of its three costly lost fumbles, this one in the end zone. A Dillon Pieffer field goal and Jason Thomas one-yard score built the visitors' lead to 17-7 but UH eventually tied things at halftime with a 63-yard Neal Gossett TD pass and Eric Hannum's first of four field goals. Tied at 20 in the third, Thomas spurt through the defense for his second-longest career TD run of 44 yards. UNLV was then able to twice hold UH in the red zone to two short field goals to make it 27-26. With 6:25 on the clock, Thomas hit Nate Turner for a one-yard score to put UNLV up by eight. UNLV's defense stiffened and forced a punt but Thomas fumbled in the open field on third and 11 and Warrior DB Nate Jackson returned the ball 30 yards to the Rebel three. UH quickly scored to pull within two points but Chang's two-point attempt fell incomplete and UNLV was able to run out the clock. Chang finished with 353 yards -- the most surrendered by the Rebels since Wyoming threw for 357 on Oct. 17, 1998 -- while Ashley Lelie led all receivers with 111 yards on seven catches for UH. UNLV overcame a poor passing day by Thomas -- 124 yards on 10-of25 passing and one pick -- by rolling up 431 yards on the ground and had three runners break the 100-yard mark in the same game -- Rudolph 159, Kevin Brown 139 and Thomas 126 -- for only the second time in school history.
UNLV vs. ARKANSAS