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UNLV no lock for spot in bowl

To guarantee a bowl appearance this season, UNLV needs to help itself and receive help from others.

With a 4-6 record, the Rebels (1-5 Mountain West Conference) will become bowl eligible if they beat Wyoming (4-6, 1-5) at 6 p.m. Thursday at Sam Boyd Stadium and win at San Diego State (1-9, 0-6) on Nov. 22.

Even then, there is no guarantee UNLV receive its first postseason appearance since the 2000 Las Vegas Bowl.

Should the Rebels finish 6-6, their only Mountain West-affiliated postseason hope would be the New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 20. To lock up a bid there, UNLV must hope No. 8 Utah (10-0, 6-0) beats San Diego State on Saturday and No. 16 Brigham Young (9-1, 5-1) on Nov. 22, putting the Utes in a Bowl Championship Series game and freeing up a Mountain West bowl slot.

If the Utes pull that off, UNLV also needs Colorado State (4-6, 2-4) to lose to either New Mexico (4-7, 2-5) on Saturday or Wyoming on Nov. 22. The Rams would probably get the nod over UNLV for the New Mexico Bowl if both are 6-6, especially because Colorado State won the regular-season meeting, 41-28.

“That’s a big factor,” New Mexico Bowl executive director Jeff Siembieda said. “Especially with the economy the way it is, the fans of one school (Colorado State) being able to drive as opposed to the other (UNLV) having to fly is something you would consider.”

The Rebels also didn’t help themselves Saturday when an announced crowd of 13,154 attended their 27-20 victory over New Mexico. New Mexico Bowl director of operations Cary Colbert was at the game.

However, Siembieda said he is hopeful a bowl bid would energize Rebels fans, though the New Mexico Bowl is on the same day as the UNLV-Arizona basketball game and the Las Vegas Bowl.

A Utah loss in either of its final two games would probably eliminate the Utes from BCS consideration, leaving UNLV out of the New Mexico Bowl no matter what happens.

But there is some hope for an at-large berth, and the Hawaii Bowl on Dec. 24 and Texas Bowl on Dec. 30 might have vacancies.

“Las Vegas is Hawaii’s eighth island, so no question there’s an affinity with Las Vegas, and a lot of Hawaii people live in Las Vegas,” Hawaii Bowl executive director David Matlin said. “That team in this state would add some appeal to the game.”

As for the Rebels, they’re happy they have meaningful games to play, something rare for this time of the year.

“It’s a different team and it’s a different attitude, but the fact we have something to play for definitely has an impact,” coach Mike Sanford said.

UNLV received a major boost by beating New Mexico, not only staying alive for a bowl, but ending its five-game losing streak.

“I came in (Sunday) morning, and the energy level was really high,” defensive tackle Malo Taumua said.

• NOTES — Deante’ Purvis was named Mountain West special teams player of the week. He blocked a punt that was returned for a touchdown and averaged 34.3 yards on three kickoff returns. … Fans 16 and under receive free admission to Thursday’s game by wearing a youth sports team jersey or donating two canned food items. Anyone older than 16 who donates two food items gets in for $5. The food drive benefits Three Square, a local charity.

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914.

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