The Freemont Cannon, properly painted red, is fired during the pre-game ceremonies of the UNLV vs. San Jose State.
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 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.
There was doubt that UNLV would be invited to a bowl, since San Diego State beat Fresno State earlier in the season and removed them from competing for a BCS bowl. So Fresno would be eligible for a lower-level bowl instead of the higher-level BCS bowls. That left the Mountain West with seven bowl-eligible teams (including Fresno) but only six bowl tie-in games. San Jose State only had six wins, so they were at a significant disadvantage, but UNLV's poor fanbase meant that bowl games would worry that UNLV's fans wouldn't travel to see the game.
While I'm happy that UNLV is going to a bowl, I'm a little disappointed that they aren't going to one that's a little bit closer. A bowl in Idaho or New Mexico would be driving distance, but Dallas, Texas might be a bit too far for my dad and I to drive, and plane tickets will likely be very expensive around the holidays. Hopefully, we can still travel to support the team. My dad and I are season ticket-holders, and I'd hate to prove the bowls committees right by refusing to travel with the team.
The Cotton Bowl stadium, by the way, has a seating capacity of 96,000. That's three times the size of Sam Boyd stadium. I don't think UNLV has ever played in a stadium even close to this big. Hopefully, they are not too intimidated. I certainly hope that plenty of UNLV fans show up to the game in order to fill out some of those bleachers on New Year's Day.