After UNLV opened the basketball season with an exhibition loss to little Dixie State on Friday night, a fellow calling himself Mattyny posted one of the first messages below the Internet pictures, descriptions and accounts of the game.
“Well, there is always football ...” he wrote.
The joke was that UNLV was turning into a football school, what with its 5-3 record (in November!) heading into Saturday’s homecoming game against San Jose State.
Turning onto Russell Road en route to Sam Boyd Stadium, I even encountered a solitary scalper who had scrawled on a scrap of cardboard that he needed tickets.
Needed tickets. To a UNLV football game. In November (!).
Alas, the Rebels lost to San Jose State 34-24.
It was a glorious afternoon for college football, or for just about any other outdoor activity of which one could think, and yet only 15,837 showed up to watch UNLV attempt to become bowl eligible.
So UNLV is not turning into a football school, at least not just yet.
The crowd was an embarrassment, a Skin Bracer slap in the face to the footballers, given almost every seat in the little stadium on the outskirts of town was occupied for a motorcycle race on dirt bikes a couple of weeks ago.
And that was before the Rebels beat UNR up at their place.
That scalper who needed tickets should have just strolled down to the Will Call window. They would have sold him all the tickets he could have possibly needed.
Those who did show up had high hopes of witnessing the Rebels clinch just their fourth bowl bid since leather helmets, the flying wedge and the dawn of time.
But in the first half, San Jose State dominated UNLV in every phase of the game, and probably a couple of phases of other games. And so the Argyle Sock Bowl, or wherever the Rebels are headed for Christmas provided they can win one more game, will have to wait.
Knowing the fickleness of the UNLV fan, a lot were probably thinking “same old Rebels” at halftime.
Only this season they would be wrong to think that. Because this season, UNLV is 5-4 just 25 days before Thanksgiving.
Maybe the Rebels haven’t beaten anybody, but they finally beat UNR, and that’s why there were two fighting men in battle fatigues guarding the Fremont Cannon near the UNLV locker room Saturday. The howitzer’s strange bright red paint job was gleaming in the sun.
The Rebels also have beaten Central Michigan, Western Illinois, Hawaii and New Mexico. None of which, as stated, is very good; all of which, in another season — in a lot of other seasons — would have beaten UNLV.
But when the Rebels left the field at halftime trailing 24-3, they still were serenaded with boos.
San Jose State, which is a high-scoring team but not a great one, had piled up 331 yards to UNLV’s 74.
The defensive Rebels trudged off the field looking more tired than an old basset hound. They were out there in the bright sun for 19:51 before the homecoming court was introduced, whereas the offensive Rebels were on the field for just 10:09.
But the Rebels had come from behind four times to win this season, and though UNLV coach Bobby Hauck doesn’t believe in Knute Rockne-type speeches, he does believe in halftime adjustments. So he made some more. Once again they were effective.
But 21 points behind was too many points behind.
The Rebels pulled to within a touchdown twice. They could pull no closer. Not even with the help of a politically incorrect interference call on a punt return by a back judge named Lyndon Nixon.
So now UNLV must win once in three tries, against Utah State at home or at Air Force or against San Diego State at home, to qualify for the Heisenberg Bowl, which would be a much better name for the bowl game in New Mexico.
The Rebels just might wind up there, if they can stop breaking bad against the average teams of the Mountain West or against Air Force, which is less than average this season.
This still could be a real nice football season, even if UNLV fans don’t seem to care.
After the shadows descended on the playing field and I pulled back onto Boulder Highway from Russell Road, that solitary ticket scalper was either long gone or arrested.
Yes, the Rebels were 5-4 in football, but it was starting to feel like November. In a few hours, clocks would be turned back. They say a cold front is moving in.
The old Sam Boyd Stadium marquee, which used to advertise the football games played just down the road, had been covered over by an ad that said Smokey Robinson soon would be appearing at the Eastside Cannery.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.