DALLAS — Derek Thompson threw for 256 yards and two touchdowns, Brelan Chancellor scored twice and North Texas dominated the second half Wednesday to beat UNLV 36-14 in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Both of Chancellor’s touchdown runs came in the fourth quarter after he keyed the go-ahead scoring drive in the third with some nifty footwork on a first-down catch. He had 121 yards combined rushing and receiving.
This was the Mean Green’s first postseason appearance since a 2004 New Orleans Bowl loss to Southern Miss and its first bowl victory since New Orleans in 2002. The Rebels lost for the first time in four bowl games.
UNLV (7-6) drove 95 yards for a touchdown on its opening possession but didn’t score again until the Mean Green (9-4) were up 28-7 in the fourth quarter.
With the score 7-7 at halftime, the Mean Green went ahead for good at 14-7 in the third quarter on Thompson’s 7-yard scoring pass to Drew Miller – the fourth third-down conversion on the drive.
Chancellor kept the possession alive by slipping past UNLV’s Peni Vea along the sideline and staying inbounds for a 17-yard catch on third-and-16. That was one play after North Texas was backed up by a late-hit penalty on guard Mason Y’Barbo.
Tim Cornett, UNLV’s career rushing leader, was held to 33 yards – 71 below his average and the same total as quarterback Caleb Herring, who threw for 196 yards and two touchdowns.
Chancellor, who had 74 yards receiving and 47 rushing, scored on runs of 3 and 15 yards. The Mean Green sacked Herring five times.
Darnell Smith had a 34-yard catch to put North Texas up 28-7 before Herring’s 13-yard scoring pass to Jerry Rice Jr., the first career touchdown for the son of Hall of Famer Jerry Rice in his final college game.
North Texas came in with one of the nation’s top scoring defenses and forced seven straight scoreless UNLV possessions. The Rebels punted on their first three possessions of the second half, and the Mean Green scored each time.
UNLV missed a chance to take control in the first quarter when Keith Whitely muffed a punt to keep the Rebels from getting the ball back after a 95-yard drive highlighted by Herring’s 29-yard pass to Devante Davis and punctuated with a 9-yard scoring toss to Marcus Sullivan.
Zed Evans recovered Whitely’s muffed punt at the UNLV 42, and Antoinne Jimmerson scored from inside the 1 a play after his run from the 3 was ruled a touchdown before getting overturned on replay.
Davis had 10 catches for 96 yards for the Rebels.
North Texas’ James Jones dropped what would have been an easy interception that he could have returned for a touchdown in the final minute of the first half. Coach Dan McCarney called timeout moments before the Mean Green blocked a field goal that Kenny Buyers would have easily taken about 50 yards for a score on the final play before halftime.
The Rebels were in position to try the 52-yard field goal at the end of the half after the Mean Green jumped offside with UNLV punting on fourth-and-5 with 24 seconds left. Nolan Kohorst’s kick was well short.