Note: This is the second installment of a weekly feature, except for UNLV’s two byes, that will look at a notable Rebels game at Sam Boyd Stadium. UNLV moves to Allegiant Stadium next year.
Just two years removed from going 0-11, UNLV took the field for the 2000 Las Vegas Bowl against Arkansas of the Southeastern Conference and put an exclamation on a remarkable turnaround.
John Robinson, known mostly for his time in charge at Southern California and the Los Angeles Rams, coached the Rebels to a 31-14 victory.
“A lot of drastic changes had to happen, and a lot of drastic changes did happen,” offensive tackle John Greer said after the game. “John Robinson coming to the program, recruiting a lot of the athletes that came here, you see it’s on the upswing.”
The bowl victory, giving the Rebels an 8-5 record, turned out to be the apex for Robinson at UNLV. But there were only feelings of joy for Rebels fans on that night four days before Christmas. They flooded the field after the game and tore down one of the goalposts.
UNLV took control in the second half , outscoring the Razorbacks 17-0 to break a halftime tie. Quarterback Jason Thomas’ 54-yard touchdown pass to Troy Mason — which sailed about 60 yards through the air — highlighted that domination.
Thomas was named UNLV’s game Most Valuable Player after completing 12 of 17 passes for 217 yards and three TDs.
UNLV has been to one bowl since, and this win over Arkansas remains the Rebels’ last postseason victory.
It’s been a long time since that wondrous night. A night, though, when just about anything seemed possible.