Trip to islands is no vacation for UNLV to go bowling

November 28, 2000 8:07 AM
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UNLV at Hawaii

There’s no legal wagering in Nevada on this game – at least, not yet — but there’s a lot of interest in the Silver State on the outcome, with bowl implications for UNLV.

Bowl for the Rebels: After not appearing in a bowl since 1994, the Rebels don’t want Hawaii to stand in their way this season. The Las Vegas Bowl wants them in their contest and won’t extend an invitation until after this game. (If UNLV doesn’t qualify, Air Force will be invited).

Las Vegas Bowl officials want UNLV because they’re believers in head coach John Robinson. Robinson has a 7-1 bowl record, the highest win percent (87.5%) of all active college coaches with at least that many bowl games. Robinson also won the national championship with his ’78 USC team. His presence in the Las Vegas Bowl also would attract a lot of local interest (almost no local participation in previous games).

Hawaii: The Rainbows (as the fans still call their team despite the politically-correct name change) have passed for 51.5% on the year with a 20-19 ratio. Timmy Chang (6-2, 190) is their best passer with 52.2 % and a 16-17 ratio.

The team has also rushed for 3.8 yards per carry and allowed 3.9. Their third-down conversions are 35% and they allow 42%. They’ve been outscored in every quarter except the first and fourth, but their fourth-quarter points have often been after the game had been long decided. The second-quarter margin is a huge 134-24 (12.18 to 2.18 per game) difference.

In other words, this is not a good team (3-8) and is far inferior to the 9-4 Hawaii bowl team of last year.

UNLV’s last game: Robinson watched his squad overcome a 21-7 second-quarter deficit to win their first road game of the season at San Diego State.

A large part in the comeback was the passing combination of sophomore quarterback Jason Thomas (19 of 31, 277 yards, two TDs) and senior wide receiver Nate Turner (career-high 11 receptions for 158 yards, one TD). The Aztecs defense was able to stop the Rebels running attack, so UNLV had to rely on the arm of Jason Thomas. He came through despite the effects of a twisted ankle from three weeks ago.

Robinson appeared emotionally drained when he came out of a loud and wild Rebels locker room to meet the media afterward.

"This has been this team’s personality all year long," Robinson said. "If you are playing us, you’ve got to bring it for four quarters. We keep playing and we don’t give up."

"It was a helluva game."

A game that kept UNLV’s bowl hopes alive for one more week. The Rebels must win Saturday night at Hawaii to earn the bid for the Las Vegas Bowl (8:05 p.m. Pacific).

Hawaii’s last game: Wisconsin’s Michael Bennnett rushed for 218 yards and Chris Chambers caught another 169 to lead Wisconsin past Hawaii Saturday night at Aloha Stadium, 34-18.

The Badgers held the ball for more than 41 minutes of the game compared to Hawaii’s 18:13 (ball control domination). Both teams gained over 400 total yards, Wisconsin with 470 and Hawaii with 403.

Chang finished 24-of-56 (42.8%) for 361 yards and 2-2 ratio. Hawaii’s Justin Colbert caught a career-high 124 yards and one TD on nine receptions. Safety Nate Jackson had two interceptions and led all tacklers with 14.

This game: UNLV is averaging 209.36 rush yards per game and ranks No. 16 in rush offense. Hawaii (No. 91 rush defense) just gave up 263 yards rushing to Wisconsin. They average 198.42 yards on the year. This should spell success for the UNLV rushing game that Assistant Head Coach John Jackson has developed (again). Jackson came back from retirement to join Robinson (who was with him at USC), and could be the best running back coach in football.

UNLV QB Jason Thomas is No. 13 in pass efficiency with a rating of 145.43. That also means success in the passing game against Hawaii’s No. 99 rated pass efficiency defense.

Hawaii is No. 5 in pass offense and No. 109 in rush offense, which means they are totally one-dimensional on offense. UNLV will probably give up a lot of passing yards, but they should be developing a game plan based on facing a one-dimensional offense. Hawaii’s True Freshman QB Timmy Chang will want to solidify his status as the starter for next year, but the team’s inability to run the ball will allow UNLV to bring a complete blitz package. This will put pressure on Chang, who’s talented and if given time can be effective.

Summary: UNLV (unlike Wisconsin) will be motivated to win this game since they’re in the Las Vegas Bowl with a win. Wisconsin had already accepted a bowl bid. UNLV is likely to be all business and won’t consider this a tropical vacation. Hawaii has nothing to play for except building for next year and getting a fourth win this year. They should play loose with nothing to lose, but in the end UNLV will win and should cover the number.

Take: UNLV –7½.