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36

UNLV (7-5) vs. North Texas (8-4)



Thursday, January 1, 12 p.m. (ET)

From The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, Associate College Football Editor

GAME NOTES: Back in the postseason for the first time since 1994, the UNLV Rebels try to make the most of their opportunity as they match up against the North Texas Mean Green in the Heart of Dallas Bowl on New Year's Day.

Hailing from the Mountain West Conference, which just this season expanded to 12 teams and added a conference title game, the Rebels had been downright awful the last several years, winning no more than two games in each of the previous three campaigns. Despite the lackluster showings, head coach Bobby Hauck continued to get the support he needed in order to build a growing program and the result is an invitation to a bowl game that has been a long time coming.

The Rebels appeared to be heading towards another disappointing campaign when they opened 2013 with back-to-back defeats against Minnesota and Arizona, but then the team ripped through an unprecedented four consecutive victories and five of the next six. The squad did lose some momentum with setbacks against San Jose State and Utah State in the first couple weeks of November, but rebounded with triumphs over Air Force and San Diego State, outscoring the Falcons and Aztecs by a combined 86-40.

Even before the win against SDSU, Hauck received yet another contract extension, so making it to the postseason was vindication for all his hard work.

"Obviously we are thrilled to be playing in the Heart of Dallas Bowl on New Year's Day, which is the biggest day in college football. For UNLV to be participating on that day is a huge deal for our university and our program. I'm excited about it."

As for the Mean Green, they too had a shaky start to the season with three defeats in five tries, but beginning the second week of October there was almost no stopping NT and head coach Dan McCarney. Outside of a 21-13 setback against Texas-San Antonio leading up to Thanksgiving, the second half of the season was nearly perfect for the program.

Prior to the loss to the Roadrunners, North Texas rattled off five straight wins and then came back after the defeat to UTSA to crush Tulsa on the road in a 42-10 romp at the end of November.

"This a validation for all the hard work put in by this team and the leadership of this senior class," McCarney said of the bowl invitation. "I can't give enough thanks to Brant Ringler from the Heart of Dallas Bowl and Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky for the confidence they have shown in this team and the effort they have put in during this process."

Back in the postseason for the first time since 2004, the Mean Green have not captured a bowl victory since topping Cincinnati in the New Orleans Bowl in 2002 by a score of 24-19. That particular bowl had been a steady landing spot for North Texas which played in the event four straight years, but only won once. just under a decade ago the Mean Green bowed to Southern Miss, 31-10, in the contest. Overall, UNT is just 2-5 in postseason appearances dating back to the 1946 Optimist Bowl versus Pacific.

UNLV has played in a total of just two bowl games previously, winning both as the squad took out Toledo in the 1984 California Bowl by a score of 30-13 and then a decade later topping Central Michigan in the Las Vegas Bowl, 52-24.

The Rebels have won all four of the previous meetings between the programs, the most recent of those coming in 2000 when UNLV blanked the Mean Green at home, 38-0.

Formerly known as the TicketCity Bowl, this is just the fourth year for this bowl, with Oklahoma State crushing Purdue in last year's meeting, 52-14.

For a UNLV offense that is generating 31.2 ppg, the leader is quarterback Caleb Herring, who returned to his natural position early on in the season in order to guide the squad to new heights. Coming in for Nick Sherry, Herring has completed 64.3 percent of his pass attempts for 210.2 ypg and 22 touchdowns. More importantly, Herring managed games, knowing when to take chances down the field and when to plan for the next play.

Herring, who threw just four interceptions on 364 attempts, also scored five times on the ground and while he was certainly helpful in that area, the rushing attacked belonged to and continues to be dominated by Tim Cornett. One of the top rushers in program history, Cornett galloped for 1,251 yards and scored 15 of the unit's 25 rushing touchdowns.

While Cornett churns out the yards and points on the ground, Herring looks for key receivers like Devante Davis to make a major impact down field. Logging almost twice as many receptions as any of his teammates, Davis finished with 77 grabs for 1,194 yards and 14 TDs.

Unfortunately for Herring and the offense, there were quite a number of times when the UNLV defense put the squad in a bind because it had trouble slowing down the opposition. The team was torched for 25 rushing touchdowns and 221.8 ypg on the ground, as well as another 19 aerial scores and 214.5 ypg through the air.

Of the team's 20 sacks in 2013, 4.5 were produced by Tyler Gaston as he finished fifth on the team in overall tackles with 46 and was one of several performers with at least five tackles for loss. The team leader in sacks, Gaston almost sounded disappointed to be playing on the first day of January.

"For me I kind of thought of it from a different perspective. I usually bring in the New Year with my family and I was kind of hurt about that. But then I thought I may not see these guys anymore after this year and what better way to bring it in then with my new family that I got a chance to grow and mature with for four years."

Gaston and the rest of the UNLV defense will be facing off against a North Texas offense that takes a lot of pride in running the ball and beating up the opposition at the point of attack. As a unit, NT generated 184.0 ypg on the ground and scored a total of 28 touchdowns, 11 of which were tallied by Brandin Byrd who ran for 1,023 yards and averaged 5.6 yards per carry.

Handling the passing duties was Derek Thompson as he rivaled Herring for accuracy (.639), but while he accounted for 220.0 ypg, he tossed just 14 TDs, against 13 interceptions. Darnell Smith emerged as the leading receiver in terms of total catches with 65, leading to 716 yards, but all of that work resulted in just three trips to the end zone. Brelan Chancellor stretched his 47 catches into a team-best 718 yards and four TDs.

He may not have been the sole focus of the offense for the Mean Green, but Chancellor sure made himself noticed as a kickoff and punt returner, one of only two players in the nation with three punt returns of over 50 yards as he was named the 2013 Conference USA Special Teams Player of the Year.

While the offense for the Mean Green doesn't exactly light up the scoreboard, the defense is another story entirely. Led by Zachary Orr and his staggering 114 tackles, including 11 for loss, this is a group that ranks ninth in the country in points allowed (18.1 ppg), is 19th in run defense (125.1 ypg) and 27th in total defense (355.5 ppg).

Although Orr doesn't own any of the team's 17 interceptions, he does have three forced fumbles and four recoveries for a group that has made it their job to halt opponents inside the red zone. In fact, heading into bowl season there was no one better in FBS as the group graded out to 0.606.

Ranked fourth in the nation in takeaways, the Mean Green will have their work cut out for them this time around as they face a passing attack that is both explosive and conservative at the same time. Herring doesn't make many mistakes in the pocket, but if he does you can expect to see North Texas pounce immediately.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: North Texas 27, UNLV 20

12/29 14:35:15 ET

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
ROC 8
DUR 2
 
2:30pm Friday
STONYBROOK
NCSTATE
 
7:05pm Friday
SYR
DUR
 
6:35pm Saturday
SYR
DUR
 
5:05pm Sunday
SYR
DUR
 
Final
TEX 3
CLE 12
Final
COL 6
CIN 4
Final
MIA 2
PIT 5
Final
CWS 5
TOR 3
Final
KAN 2
NYY 4
Final
BOS 4
MIN 6
Final
PHI 0
NYM 7
Final
SEA 3
TAM 0
Final
SFG 3
MIL 1
Final
DET 3
OAK 2
Final
HOU 4
BAL 5
Final
WAS 3
CHC 0
Final
ARI 3
STL 4
Final
SDP 5
ANA 4
Final
ATL 3
LOS 2
1:05pm Today
CWS
BAL
 
4:35pm Today
CWS
BAL
 
8:05pm Tonight
BOS
TEX
 
10:05pm Tonight
DET
ANA
 
10:05pm Tonight
NYY
OAK
 
10:10pm Tonight
CLE
SEA
 
10:10pm Tonight
PIT
SDP
 
10:15pm Tonight
ATL
SFG
 
4:05pm Friday
KAN
CHC
 
7:05pm Friday
COL
PHI
 
7:05pm Friday
TAM
BAL
 
7:10pm Friday
MIA
NYM
 
7:10pm Friday
WAS
CIN
 
8:05pm Friday
BOS
TEX
 
8:10pm Friday
ARI
MIL
 
8:10pm Friday
CWS
HOU
 
8:10pm Friday
TOR
MIN
 
8:15pm Friday
LOS
STL
 
10:05pm Friday
DET
ANA
 
10:05pm Friday
NYY
OAK
 
10:10pm Friday
CLE
SEA
 
10:10pm Friday
PIT
SDP
 
10:15pm Friday
ATL
SFG
 
2:10pm Saturday
TOR
MIN
 
3:05pm Saturday
COL
PHI
 
4:05pm Saturday
TAM
BAL
 
4:10pm Saturday
ARI
MIL
 
4:10pm Saturday
CWS
HOU
 
4:10pm Saturday
MIA
NYM
 
4:10pm Saturday
WAS
CIN
 
7:15pm Saturday
BOS
TEX
 
7:15pm Saturday
KAN
CHC
 
7:15pm Saturday
LOS
STL
 
10:05pm Saturday
ATL
SFG
 
10:05pm Saturday
DET
ANA
 
10:05pm Saturday
NYY
OAK
 
10:10pm Saturday
CLE
SEA
 
10:10pm Saturday
PIT
SDP
 
1:10pm Sunday
MIA
NYM
 
1:10pm Sunday
WAS
CIN
 
1:35pm Sunday
COL
PHI
 
1:35pm Sunday
TAM
BAL
 
2:10pm Sunday
ARI
MIL
 
2:10pm Sunday
CWS
HOU
 
2:10pm Sunday
TOR
MIN
 
2:15pm Sunday
LOS
STL
 
2:20pm Sunday
KAN
CHC
 
3:05pm Sunday
BOS
TEX
 
4:05pm Sunday
ATL
SFG
 
4:05pm Sunday
NYY
OAK
 
4:10pm Sunday
CLE
SEA
 
8:05pm Sunday
DET
ANA
 
9:10pm Sunday
PIT
SDP
 
7:05pm Monday
TOR
WAS
 
7:10pm Monday
CHC
MIA
 
7:10pm Monday
MIN
BOS
 
8:10pm Monday
BAL
HOU
 
8:10pm Monday
MIL
STL
 
8:40pm Monday
LOS
COL
 
9:40pm Monday
ATL
ARI
 
10:05pm Monday
TAM
ANA
 
10:10pm Monday
NYM
SDP
 
10:10pm Monday
NYY
SEA
 
10:15pm Monday
PIT
SFG
 
Final
HOU 90
GSW 104
Final
ANA 2
CHI 5
8:00pm Friday
TAM
NYR
 
8:00pm Saturday
CHI
ANA
 
12:00pm Friday
AUBURN
CHARLESTON
 
1:00pm Friday
CALIFORNIA
CCAROLINA
 
1:00pm Friday
COLUMBIA
ECAROLINA
 
1:00pm Friday
ORALROBRTS
ARKANSAS
 
1:00pm Friday
OREGON
IOWA
 
1:00pm Friday
SFLORIDA
FAU
 
1:00pm Friday
WRIGHTST
NOTREDAME
 
2:00pm Friday
MICHIGAN
BRADLEY
 
2:30pm Friday
STONYBROOK
NCSTATE
 
2:30pm Friday
TEXAS
OREGONST
 
3:00pm Friday
INDIANA
RADFORD
 
3:30pm Friday
ULLAFAYETE
RICE
 
4:00pm Friday
LEHIGH
LSU
 
6:00pm Friday
CANISIUS
SWMISSOURI
 
6:00pm Friday
CLEMSON
ARIZONAST
 
6:00pm Friday
MERCER
FLORIDAST
 
6:00pm Friday
MOREHEADST
LOUISVILLE
 
6:00pm Friday
VIRGINIA
USC
 
7:00pm Friday
FIU
MIAFLA
 
7:00pm Friday
FLAAM
FLORIDA
 
7:00pm Friday
MARYLAND
MISS
 
7:00pm Friday
SACREDHART
TCU
 
7:00pm Friday
STJOHNS
OKLAHOMAST
 
7:00pm Friday
TSOUTHERN
TEXASAM
 
7:00pm Friday
VCU
DALLASBAPT
 
8:00pm Friday
HSTNBAPT
HOUSTON
 
8:00pm Friday
LIPSCOMB
VANDERBILT
 
8:00pm Friday
OHIO
ILLINOIS
 
8:00pm Friday
TULANE
NWILMINGTN
 
10:00pm Friday
PEPPERDINE
FULLERTON
 
10:00pm Friday
SANDIEGOST
CSANTABAR
 
11:00pm Friday
CSBAKER
UCLA
 
12:00pm Saturday
TBA
TBA
 
12:00pm Saturday
TBA
TBA
 
1:00pm Saturday
TBA
TBA
 
1:00pm Saturday
TBA
TBA
 
1:00pm Saturday
TBA
TBA
 
1:00pm Saturday
TBA
TBA
 
1:00pm Saturday
TBA
TBA
 
1:00pm Saturday
TBA
TBA
 
2:30pm Saturday
TBA
TBA
 
3:30pm Saturday
TBA
TBA
 
3:30pm Saturday
TBA
TBA
 
4:00pm Saturday
TBA
TBA
 
4:00pm Saturday
TBA
TBA
 
4:00pm Saturday
TBA
TBA
 
6:00pm Saturday
TBA
TBA
 
6:00pm Saturday
TBA
TBA
 
6:00pm Saturday
TBA
TBA
 
6:00pm Saturday
TBA
TBA
 
7:00pm Saturday
TBA
TBA
 
7:00pm Saturday
TBA
TBA
 
7:00pm Saturday
TBA
TBA
 
7:00pm Saturday
TBA
TBA
 
7:00pm Saturday
TBA
TBA
 
7:00pm Saturday
TBA
TBA
 
8:00pm Saturday
TBA
TBA
 
8:00pm Saturday
TBA
TBA
 
8:00pm Saturday
TBA
TBA
 
8:00pm Saturday
TBA
TBA
 
9:00pm Saturday
TBA
TBA
 
10:00pm Saturday
TBA
TBA
 
10:00pm Saturday
TBA
TBA
 
11:00pm Saturday
TBA
TBA
 
Final
ROC 8
DUR 2
 
7:05pm Friday
SYR
DUR
 
6:35pm Saturday
SYR
DUR
 
5:05pm Sunday
SYR
DUR