Note: This is the fourth installment of a weekly feature, except for UNLV’s two bye weeks, that will look at a notable Rebels game at Sam Boyd Stadium. UNLV moves to Allegiant Stadium next year.
UNLV was coming off a 3-8 season in 1993, prompting a change in coaches from Jim Strong to Jeff Horton. He then proceeded to put together a season that exceeded expectations, as UNLV beat UNR in the final minutes to represent the Big West Conference in the Las Vegas Bowl.
The Rebels’ bowl appearance lacked the drama of the 32-27 victory over the Wolf Pack, with UNLV dominating Central Michigan 52-24 to finish 7-5. UNLV led 52-10 in the fourth quarter.
“The kids were just ready to get after it,” Horton said after the game. “We made a lot of big plays. They just wanted to make a statement to the country.”
Henry Bailey, who would go on to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets, rushed for three touchdowns and caught a scoring pass. He had five receptions for 101 yards and gained 79 yards on seven carries to earn Most Valuable Player.
The victory made it look as if the program was headed in the right direction. But with 24 departing seniors, UNLV didn’t build on the success of that season. The Rebels went 2-9, 1-11, 3-8 and 0-11 before the administration turned the program over to John Robinson following the 1998 season.
But this team’s legacy lived on, and in 2010 it was inducted into the UNLV Athletics Hall of Fame.