Q&A with Taylor Bern of the Las Vegas Sun

UNLV players celebrate by having their photograph taken on the field after the Rebels win over Air Force earlier this season. (Associated Press/David Zalubowski)

We are fortunate today to have Taylor Bern from the Las Vegas Sun. Taylor covers UNLV for the paper. The Sun has set up a special section of its website for the bowl game. You can read what Taylor has written about the game there.

Here is what he had to say about Wednesday’s game:

1. Is there a lot of interest in UNLV football considering it’s considered a basketball school?
There’s no question that football plays second fiddle. It’s not uncommon for a home basketball game to draw more fans than a home football game, which is unheard of at most places. There’s obviously plenty of ground football could make up in regards to fan interest, but short of a run of BCS bowls while the basketball team goes nearly winless at the same time, I don’t see football taking over at UNLV any time soon.

2. Talk about the job Bobby Hauck has done.
A lot of people have wanted Hauck fired in the two years leading up to this season, and at a lot of places that’s exactly what would have happened. Hauck won only two games each of his first three seasons and it took a combination of factors for him to return in 2013. Most importantly is the athletics department’s budget, which is constantly in the red. That makes his relatively cheap contract — $350,000 base salary — more attractive, and because of the program’s history of irrelevance no one is too thrilled at the idea of starting all over again.

So that’s what kept him coaching, and now he has a new contract because the Rebels finally got over the hump. Even though the 2012 season ended with a 2-11 record, it was a step forward in terms of competitive games. Building off of that, UNLV started to win close games that it used to lose and also took advantage of an easier schedule. It’s funny to look back to the second quarter against Central Michigan on Sept. 14, when the 0-2 Rebels were trailing 21-0 and many of us were preparing Hauck’s coaching obituary. Here we are nearly four months later and everything has changed.

3. Will UNLV bring anyone to the game?
Not many. Ticket sales were sluggish, and while it’s a better trip than the Hawaii Bowl would have been it’s still a difficult one for many people on a budget to pull off. Add that to the general lack of interest in the program and you’ve got the recipe for an empty section of Cotton Bowl Stadium.

4. Talk about some of UNLV’s top players.
Houston natives Tim Cornett and Devante Davis had tremendous seasons, setting numerous school records along the way. Davis set the single-season touchdown reception record and Cornett is now the program’s all-time rushing leader. But those two were known commodities coming into the year. The biggest surprise is senior quarterback Caleb Herring, who last year and even in spring ball was playing wide receiver.

Herring had a disastrous run as UNLV’s starting quarterback his sophomore season before losing the job to then-freshman Nick Sherry last year. Herring always took at least a few practice reps at quarterback as the team’s emergency option, but it quickly became more of that. The coaching staff’s backup plan wasn’t working out, while Herring looked like the best quarterback in both spring and fall practices. Still, because of his history no one believed Herring would get the job, and even if he did none of us saw him putting together anything close to this production. It took a tremendous collapse from Sherry for Herring to get into the starters’ role, but once he was there he completely took over.

5. How do you think this game will go?
With this much time to prepare I always put more importance on coaching, and while Hauck and his staff have had a solid a year I think North Texas wins that category. Still, I think UNLV’s offense is going to be able to put up some points. Obviously I’m less confident in the Rebels’ defense, but I think in the end UNLV pulls off the upset.

To post a comment, log into your chosen social network and then add your comment below. Your comments are subject to our Terms of Service and the privacy policy and terms of service of your social network. If you do not want to comment with a social network, please consider writing a letter to the editor.