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COLUMN: For Rebels, any win is good


At the start of his Monday news conference, Bobby Hauck, UNLV’s football coach with the 6-34 record — 7-34 now, after coming from three touchdowns down to beat Central Michigan on Saturday night — said he would answer questions only about the Chippewas.

He said this in a friendly way. He didn’t storm out as Nick Saban did when somebody asked about one of his former Alabama players accepting laundry money from one of those Roll Tide dudes.

So you couldn’t ask about Western Illinois, UNLV’s football opponent the following week. Not that you would.

Normally, you can ask Hauck questions on almost any topic. You can ask about fly-fishing, for instance. Hauck is from Montana, so he’s an excellent fly-fisherman.

He was an excellent fly-fisherman before he was 6-34 as UNLV’s football coach, and before people around here pretty much came to the conclusion that he should start winning some football games, this being his fourth year and all.

UNLV won a football game Saturday night that Bobby Hauck probably had to win, or get out his tackle box.

After falling behind 21-0, the Rebels beat Central Michigan 31-21. Let the Chippewas fall where they may.

Winning is good, that’s what Bobby Hauck said at his news conference. He also said losing is lousy. He would not, however, discuss the Leathernecks from Western Illinois, who gave Minnesota a tussle on Saturday.

So what to make of this victory?

Well, for starters, UNLV finally beat a directional school. This would have been a bigger deal if, say, the directional school was Southern California.

But the last time the Rebels played a school with a direction in its name, they lost, to Northern Arizona. The time before that, they lost, to Southern Utah.

So winning is good, even against a directional school.

It certainly beats the alternative. Losing to Central Michigan as 8-point favorites would have been unacceptable, even for a UNLV fan.

It did not start well for the Rebels. It rarely does.

After the first quarter, Central Michigan had 132 yards; the Rebels had 10. The Rebels also had Caleb Herring in at quarterback after Nick Sherry, who looked so promising on media day, threw yet another interception on his first passing attempt.

UNLV didn’t achieve its first down until 11:38 before halftime. There was a smattering of applause, but it was the sarcastic kind, like when a pitcher throws eight straight balls before finally getting one over.

With 5:11 left before halftime, the yards were 233 for the Chips, 39 for the Rebels.

Some guy with leather lungs was calling for a part of Bobby Hauck’s anatomy when the Rebels refused to go for it on fourth-and-1 with decent field position while trailing 21-0.

The Rebels, though, were starting to show spunk with Herring — 24-for-28, 266 yards, three touchdowns — at quarterback. They pulled within 21-14 early in the third quarter. They also were flying around on defense, as coaches and announcers like to say.

They pulled even at 21, and then they ran an incomplete pass into the end zone, and the scoreboard operator set off the fireworks, because sometimes that’s all it takes when you’ve been down for as long as the Rebels have been down.

And then, they won it, on a field goal in the fourth quarter, and an interception, and a touchdown pass from Herring to Devante Davis, the third time those two collaborated for six points.

The Rebels scored the last 31 points of the game. It was a tremendous comeback.

After yielding 50-plus points at Minnesota in the season opener, and another 50-plus at home against Arizona the following week — and giving away touchdowns as if they were free seats in the end zone — it was imperative to turn things around, even at this early date, even against an opponent with a direction in its name.

As one of the press box pundits said as fans began trickling into the stadium — and it was a slow trickle, like watching a glacier melt — “If UNLV doesn’t win, the season’s over.”

Season over.

In September?

Yes, you could have made that argument.

But now the season rages on. And next week, you’ll be able to ask Bobby Hauck questions about Western Illinois.

I’d be remiss in not pointing out that only 10,981 showed up at Sam Boyd Stadium to witness the Rebels win a football game. The reason you field a football team is to pay bills; a crowd like that couldn’t pick up a tab at Starbucks.

Across town at the MGM Grand Garden, Floyd Mayweather was trading fisticuffs with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in one of those boxing box office bonanzas, and that’s probably why the crowd was smaller than usual. That, and those 50-point yields in the first two games, and the years and years of losing and failing to rally from behind.

It cost $74.99 to watch the fight at home in high definition. It cost $19 for a Value End Zone seat to the football game.

Winning is good, even against a directional school. So is saving $55.99.

When you are a UNLV football fan, you take what you can get.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.