DALLAS — North Texas didn’t make life easy on UNLV quarterback Caleb Herring, pressuring him throughout its 36-14 win over the Rebels in Wednesday’s Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Herring was sacked five times, the highest amount allowed by the Rebels’ offensive line this season. The previous high was three sacks, which occurred four times.
North Texas’ pressure slowed Herring after a fast start in which he completed his first eight passes. He hit on 14 of his final 33 attempts and finished with 196 yards and two touchdowns.
“They pressured a little bit, but it wasn’t wildly tilted toward pressure,” UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said. “They won some up front. I don’t think that we handled their line extremely well when they were ganging up, either in our draw or in our run game … or in pass protection.
“They covered us up a little bit, and they were getting some push and making Caleb move his feet. They’re pretty good players up front, and they did a nice job.”
■ HOME-FIELD ADVANTAGE — With North Texas’ campus about a 45-minute drive from Cotton Bowl Stadium, this always was going to feel like a road game for UNLV.
And so it was, with Mean Green fans making up about 95 percent of the announced crowd of 38,380.
“(It’s) been a slow process to expand our fan base, but they’ve been really, really loyal, and the nucleus that we have now has been unbelievable,” North Texas coach Dan McCarney said. “Walking into one of the great stadiums in the history of college football, you have a whole sea of green, it’s unbelievable. You can’t lose your focus and start looking around at all the people, but it was a great sight. I’ll have that in my mind forever.”
Like UNLV, North Texas enjoyed its best season in years, making a bowl for the first time since 2004. To win in front of so many fans was special for the players.
“You saw the kind of support the team brought,” said North Texas quarterback Derek Thompson, the game’s Most Valuable Player. “It was so exciting running on the field and seeing a sea of green. UNT has supported us all year.”
■ NO MORE PERFECTION — The Rebels suffered their first bowl defeat. They were 3-0 in bowls, having most recently beaten Arkansas 31-14 in the 2000 Las Vegas Bowl.
UNLV also had its perfect record against North Texas end, having gone 4-0 against the Mean Green until this meeting. This was the teams’ first game against each other since 2000.
But the Rebels also have had their troubles in Texas. Wednesday’s loss dropped their record to 3-13 in the state. One of those defeats also occurred at Cotton Bowl Stadium, a 10-7 loss to Southern Methodist in 1998. UNLV practiced at SMU in preparation for this bowl.
■ RECORD SETTER — Devante Davis’ 10 receptions broke UNLV’s bowl record for most catches in a game. The previous mark was eight by Nate Turner in the 2000 Las Vegas Bowl.
Davis also had 96 yards in receptions, giving him 1,290 for the season. That is second in Rebels history to Jim Sandusky’s 1,341 yards in 1981.
■ IN ATTENDANCE — Two former greats for each school served as honorary captains.
Kevin Thomas represented UNLV. He might be the greatest cornerback in school history, and he played on the 2000 Las Vegas Bowl team. Thomas, who lives in Dallas, spent four seasons with the Buffalo Bills.
“Mean” Joe Greene, known as a fearsome defensive tackle on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ teams that won four Super Bowls during the 1970s, represented North Texas.
Both schools also brought their cannons, with the Rebels hauling in the Fremont Cannon they won for beating UNR in October.
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.