UNLV Running Rebels logo

This weekend, I had the displeasure of sitting through one of the most disappointingly ugly football games that I've ever seen. UNLV squeked out a 13-12 victory over the Division II college football team Northern Colorado, in a game in which UNLV was favored by over 25 points. UNLV came into the season with high expectations after making it to a bowl game last year, but this weekend's game may have shattered those expectations for me.

I wasn't terribly worried after week 1's lopsided defeat at the hands of Arizona. UNLV was facing a tough PAC-12 foe that I didn't expect UNLV to seriously compete with. But this week's game against a Division II school was [for me] the benchmark for the season. If UNLV blew them out, then there season would seem to have potential. But if UNLV lost this game, then they would look like the same Rebels team that struggled to win 2 games in Hauck's first three years as head coach.

UNLV's Blake Decker loses his helmet

Losing his helmet was the least of quarterback Blake Decker's worries.

What I got instead was a very indecisive, nail-biting victory that has left me very unsure as a fan.

UNLV's offense looked abysmal all game long, as starting quarterback Blake Decker's poor decisions almost threw the game away. Fortunately, the defense played well enough to hold on, and Norther Colorado's special teams failed to make the plays that could have won them the game.

There was one play early in the game that stood out to me as a bad omen. Hauck called a reverse flea flicker gadget play while UNLV was up 7-0 in the first quarter. The pass was intercepted, and seemed to give Northern Colorado a burst of adrenaline ...

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Chicago Bears longsnapping practice
16-year longsnapper Patrick Mannelly has retired.

The Chicago Bears have lost a lot of veteran leaders and stars this past couple seasons since Marc Trestman took over as head coach. I wasn't terribly surprised when Brian Urlacher became a free agent and retired, although I was extremely disappointed that he would not be back in a Bears' uniform. Earlier this offseason, return specialist Devin Hester was released and signed with the Atlanta Falcons. Hester was one of the most electric players in the league in his prime, and he was a huge factor in making me watch football (and specifically the Bears) on a more regular basis. These guys were probably my two favorite players, and neither of them is a Bear anymore.

And now, yet another elite veteran leader has departed from the team. 16-year veteran longsnapper Patrick Mannelly has retired.

Longsnappers are unheralded players. You won't find any action figures or jerseys for Mannelly in sporting goods stores, nor would you even find Mannelly in the rosters of some Madden NFL video game (that I can recall); although, I would always add him to my roster every year before starting a franchise. But whether he's a household name or not, Mannelly was a cornerstone of the Chicago Bears' special teams for 16 years! His precision has been a key factor to the success of the special teams unit, which has been widely considered an elite unit during Lovie Smith's era. In his 2006 Pro Bowl acceptance speech, kicker Robbie Gould praised Mannelly specifically for his role in Gould's kicking success (Gould is currently one of the most accurate field goal kickers in NFL history).

Chicago Bears longsnapping practice
Patrick Mannelly practicing longsnapping with holder/punter Adam Podlesh and placekicker Robbie Gould.

Mannelly had suffered from injuries the past few seasons, but when he was playing, he was as good as perfect...

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Sunday, December 8, 2013 10:15 AM

Texas has invited UNLV to go bowling!

in Sports by MegaBearsFan

Freemont Cannon pre-game firing

The Freemont Cannon, properly painted red, is fired during the pre-game ceremonies of the UNLV vs. San Jose State.

UNLV Running Rebels logo

Back in October, I expressed some doubt that UNLV's head coach, Bobby Hauck, would be able to retain his job despite a four-game winstreak. I also expressed doubt that UNLV would be able to attend a bowl this year. This team has been a disappointment for over a decade, so I've become quite used to keeping my hopes low.

But then UNLV went on to do all the things that I'd hoped they would do!

Since my last post, UNLV did beat rival Nevada and return the Freemont Cannon to its rightful place in Sam Boyd Stadium. UNLV did hit the 7-5 mark and achieve their first winning season in over a decade. And they did that by absolutely crushing San Diego state (one of the best teams in the league) in the season-closing game at Sam Boyd. As such, Hauck has been rewarded with a new three-year contract with UNLV. Congratulations, coach!

UNLV quarterback Caleb Herring celebrates

UNLV quarterback Caleb Herring celebrates with teammates after beating San Diego State.

Well, I was wrong. UNLV has been invited to a bowl. The Armed Forces Bowl decided to invite a non-Mountain West team (Tennessee State), and so the Heart of Dallas Bowl is inviting a Mountain West representative instead: and that Mountain West team is UNLV. UNLV will be playing the bowl against North Texas on January 1st, 2014 in their first bowl appearance since 2000.

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Chicago Bears alt logo

Jay Cutler can take as long as he wants to return from his groin injury. No rush.

Josh McCown is looking fantastic in Cutler's absence. He played very well against the Redskins, but the defense just couldn't stop them. He also played exceptionally well against the Packers, including managing a late game scoring drive that ate up almost a full 9 minutes of the fourth quarter clock to seal the win for the Bears.

In fact, McCown played a near perfect game against the Packers. Trestman's gameplan was very aggressive, and he put the game squarely in McCown's hands early on. He hardly missed any throws, and the few incompletions were usually the result of a receiver dropping the ball (Marshall had several drops). I only noticed two or three throws that looked significantly off the mark, and every one of them was a very safe miss. On top of that, McCown made several good plays under duress, including some scrambles for first downs and weaving around the pocket in order to sling the ball out to a receiver. And he did all of this without losing his chewing gum!

Bears 27 - Packers 20: Josh McCown
Josh McCown has looked exceptional as a replacement for Jay Cutler!
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UNLV Running Rebels logo

Next year is going to be a big year for NCAA Football.

The BCS is going away, and a playoff will take over as the determinant of the nation's best college football team.

But how different will things be for my alma matter, UNLV? Well, they certainly won't be competing for a spot in those playoffs, and they probably weren't going to any bowls either. So the big question is: will they have a new head coach?

If you had asked me that question prior to the start of this year, I would have given an emphatic "Yes!".

Heck, I was ready to say "fire him" after last year's heartbreaking loss to Nevada

Caleb Herring against Central Michigan

Caleb Herring has almost single-handedly saved UNLV's season.
Unfortunately, both he and star running back Tim Cornett are seniors.

Bobby Hauck's first 3 years calling signals for UNLV has been less than satisfactory. Each year, the team has finished with a measly two wins, he hadn't won a single road game, and UNLV was prone to giving games away in the second half - even to teams that they should have beaten. The best thing that you could say about UNLV over the past 3 years is that they made some players on some division AA schools very happy! UNLV showed no improvement during those first three years, and in fact, the team seemed to be going backwards. Any hopes of a turnaround season were dashed by the third or fourth week of the season.

After the first five halves of football this season, it was looking like UNLV had fallen even deeper into a tailspin, and I had doubts that Hauck would last through the end of the season - let alone survive long enough to see the fancy new stadium be built.

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