Rebels football:

Blog: Kohorst’s 44-yard field goal caps thrilling 39-37 UNLV victory

The Rebels have their first four-game regular-season winning streak since 1984, and it took every last second

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV Nolan Kohorst, center and the rest of the Rebels sing the school fight song after defeating Hawaii Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013 at Sam Boyd Stadium. UNLV won 39-37 on a last second field goal by Kohorst.

Updated Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013 | 9:01 p.m.

UNLV vs. Hawaii: Oct. 12, 2013

UNLV running back Tim Cornett leaps over Hawaii defensive back John Hardy-Tuliau during the first half of their game Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013 at Sam Boyd Stadium. Launch slideshow »

UNLV 39, Hawaii 37

Game over

Nolan Kohorst is a hero and UNLV is still on a bowl path, courtesy of the Green Valley High grad's 44-yard field goal as time expired.

This thing went back and forth so many times in the final minutes that it was hard to keep up. After Hawaii took the lead UNLV looked like it was going to set up an easy game-winning attempt when Caleb Herring hit Maika Mataele at the 10 with 14 seconds left. However, reviews ruled he bobbled the ball and the Rebels were now in full desperation mode.

UNLV went with two short plays that got the ball within a more manageable range for Kohorst and after one Hawaii timeout the senior came out and canned it. There was never a doubt off his foot and the remaining UNLV fans breathed a sigh of relief as much as they celebrated.

UNLV is now 4-2 and 2-0 in league play. Next week the Rebels travel to Fresno State. I'll have a full report from tonight's thrilling victory later at lasvegassun.com.

Hawaii 37, UNLV 36

1:44 remaining in the fourth quarter

UNLV's dreams are playing out in an awful nightmare as Hawaii has taken a one-point lead with 1:44 to play. Caleb Herring, who hasn't been very good the last few drives, will have to come up with a huge drive to salvage the win.

UNLV's offense once again couldn't sustain a drive that could have helped them put this game away. Logan Yunker followed that with a shanked punt, giving Hawaii the ball at its own 45-yard line. Four plays later Sean Schroeder hit Chris Gant in between two defenders and Gant scampered in for the go-ahead touchdown.

The Rebels have to be stunned right now but there's still plenty of time for them to work the ball into field goal range. UNLV has three timeouts.

UNLV 36, Hawaii 30

5:54 remaining in the fourth quarter

The Rebels just couldn't make it easy on themselves. Instead of taking down the clock UNLV's offense lost 12 yards and punted after three downs.

Hawaii countered with a quick score as the Rainbow Warriors' Sean Schroeder hit Billy Ray Stutzmann behind two UNLV defenders for a quick 48-yard score. Plenty of UNLV fans already left for the exits and the one's remaining are going to have to sweat this one out.

UNLV 36, Hawaii 23

8:11 remaining in the fourth quarter

Hawaii gave itself a little bit of hope with its first score of the second half and now UNLV must work the clock to keep the Rainbow Warriors from having any more chances.

The Rebels helped Hawaii with a pass interference penalty on the drive and Steve Lakalaka broke into the end zone by breaking several tackles. That's an issue UNLV hasn't really fixed tonight, giving them plenty to look at and attempt to fix on film.

Good teams bleed the clock when it's necessary and UNLV has spent the last few weeks trying to play the part of a good team. We'll see if they're able to execute that move once more.

UNLV 36, Hawaii 17

13:11 remaining in the third quarter

That should about do it. Barring a huge comeback UNLV is going to win its fourth straight game courtesy of another offensive onslaught and the defense's second-half effort.

UNLV didn't have to go far for this score as the Rebels' Kenneth Penny stripped and picked up a fumble, returning it within the 10-yard line. Two plays later Caleb Herring stepped up in the pocket and waltzed into the end zone while blitzers could only watch from behind.

The Rebels have run 84 offensive plays, which is already 12 more than their average. Those numbers will get a little bigger as we finish this one out, and by the time it's done Herring, Devante Davis and Tim Cornett are going to have eye-popping stats.

They're happy with that, sure, but not nearly as happy as being 4-2, no matter how they get there.

UNLV 30, Hawaii 17

1:56 remaining in the third quarter

Tim Cornett has more than 150 rushing yards and his latest score has UNLV in position to put Hawaii away once and for all tonight.

Cornett capped another solid Rebels drive with a short scamper to the left side. His second touchdown gives UNLV a 13-point lead against a Rainbow Warriors team that hasn't been able to do much of anything in the second half.

Hawaii hasn't scored since the break and it can barely get a drive started, although they do have one failed fourth down conversion on the ledger. Basically, one more stop and a score could all but end this game. A Hawaii score keeps it interesting. So, which one is it going to be?

UNLV 23, Hawaii 17

8:13 remaining in the third quarter

The Rebels have nearly 500 offensive yards and now they also have six-point lead thanks to Nolan Kohorst’s 41-yard field goal.

UNLV has now scored on both of its second-half drives, and more importantly the defense held Hawaii to three-and-out on the Rainbow Warriors’ lone possession so far. The Rebels are going to score more points tonight, so long as the defense does its job UNLV can get out of here with a nice victory.

The potential roadblocks to that are the poor tackling that continue to be an issue for the Rebels and Hawaii’s propensity for second-half comebacks. UNLV has combated that first issue with good blitz schemes so we’ll see if they continue to get into the backfield.

•••

UNLV 20, Hawaii 17

12:04 remaining in the third quarter

This has been a strange sequence for Caleb Herring.

At the end of the first half, he threw his first interception since 2011 and finished tied with Wyoming’s Brett Smith for the most consecutive completions without an interception in league history (183). Then on this drive, he started leading UNLV down the field, had to come out for one play after taking a hard hit and then threw a touchdown to Anthony Williams on his first play back on the field.

It’s certainly not a run-of-the-mill sequence but UNLV will take it. Now we’ll see how the Rebels decide to kickoff.

•••

Hawaii 17, UNLV 13

Halftime

UNLV has only itself to blame for the deficit it faces at halftime today. From the failed fourth-down attempts to some truly bizarre kickoffs, the Rebels have helped Hawaii as much as Hawaii has.

First, the kicks. After giving up an 86-yard kickoff return, the Rebels have elected to use pooch kicks that roll the ball to about the 40-yard line. They’d be better off kicking it out of bounds.

I get that you don’t want to give up another long kick return, but that's something you can fix in much better fashion than handing the opponent great field position. UNLV actually turned Hawaii away after the long kick return but the Rainbow Warriors scored back-to-back touchdowns in the final four minutes following the pooch kicks.

And as for the fourth-down attempts, you could argue the Rebels should have taken the extra six points — assuming Nolan Kohorst would have made both kicks — or you could argue the aggressive call was the right one. I’m with the latter group, though I didn’t really like the bootleg call from the 2-yard line.

Either way, UNLV knows it left points out there and I’m sure they’ll score a few more. Right now it’s a question of the defense rising to the occasion and making the adjustments necessary against a team that’s had a couple of great second halves lately.

•••

Hawaii 17, UNLV 13

0:32 remaining in the second quarter

The short kickoffs are killing UNLV, which again rolled a short pooch kick to Hawaii and again saw the Rainbow Warriors take the good field position and shove it down the Rebels’ throats.

This time it took a little less than a minute for Hawaii to reach pay dirt as Sean Schroeder threw his second touchdown pass of the game, this one a beautiful ball to the corner for receiver Chris Gant.

It’s a familiar scene for Rebels fans, who have seen UNLV give up plenty of points in the final minute of the first half over the past season and a half. What’s different is that the Rebels are complicit in the scores by essentially guaranteeing that Hawaii would start at at least its own 40-yard line.

•••

UNLV 13, Hawaii 10

1:35 remaining in the second quarter

After no scores in the first quarter, these teams are suddenly lighting up the scoreboard, though UNLV’s first touchdown may have come at a great cost.

The Rebels answered the Rainbow Warriors in swift fashion with a four-play, 53-yard drive that ate up only 43 seconds. On the second to last play, receiver Devante Davis got free in the secondary for a big gain that ended when he was knocked out of bounds inside the 5-yard line. Davis stayed down after the play and replays showed that he took a big hit to his right knee.

Davis was helped to the sidelines by a couple of people and came to a seat just as Tim Cornett took a pitch into the end zone. The offenses have woken up but if Davis is injured seriously the Rebels will have a much harder time moving the ball.

•••

Hawaii 10, UNLV 6

2:26 remaining in the second quarter

UNLV didn’t want to give up another long kickoff return so the Rebels kicked it short. They had better luck when they were backed up to their own 10.

Hawaii started near its own 40-yard line and with the help of a UNLV penalty and a long Sean Schroeder run, the Rainbow Warriors found the end zone on a four-play drive.

Trying to atone for earlier mistakes seems to be a theme for UNLV right now. It failed on a couple of fourth downs, so on fourth-and-one at the 1 they kicked a field goal. And then because they gave up one long return they didn’t want to risk giving up another.

•••

UNLV 6, Hawaii 3

4:00 remaining in the second quarter

It’s difficult to say whether UNLV stopped Hawaii or the Rainbow Warriors stopped themselves, but either way the Rebels turned a defensive stop into a field goal and their first lead of the game.

Hawaii returned a kickoff 86 yards to UNLV’s 10-yard line. From there it was a comedy of Rainbow Warriors errors, starting with a false start. Hawaii also had an illegal motion and when it finally did attempt a field goal back at the 28-yard line, the holder fumbled the ball and took a sack.

UNLV took that good field position and marched all the way down to the 1-yard line before kicking the field goal. Shaq Murray-Lawrence had a clear path into the end zone from the 2-yard line but Caleb Herring fumbled the snap and recovered at the 1. After two failed fourth-down conversions in the first quarter Bobby Hauck decided he’d rather take the points right now.

I liked the first two decisions and would have gone for it again, but it’s also understandable that the Rebels would just want to get the lead.

•••

UNLV 3, Hawaii 3

9:22 remaining in the second quarter

The Rebels finally kicked a field goal on fourth down and Nolan Kohorst rewarded them with a 35-yarder that tied the game at 3.

UNLV needed plenty of help from Hawaii’s defense, which gifted the home team with multiple offside penalties. Without that, the Rebels’ drive would have ended before they could tie the game.

That was a positive, but before I even finished typing the kickoff team surrendered an 86-yard kickoff return to the 10-yard line. UNLV’s defense is going to have to step up with its back to the wall.

•••

Hawaii 3, UNLV 0

12:46 remaining in the second quarter

The Rainbow Warriors did what the Rebels haven’t settled for and kicked a field goal for the game’s first points at Sam Boyd Stadium tonight.

Hawaii’s drive was set up mostly on one big rush although UNLV had trouble tackling the entire drive. That’s been an issue for the defense all game, one that they shouldn’t wait until halftime to fix.

When UNLV gets the ball back the offense will likely still feel confident. They’ve been playing well and then coming up short at the end. The only larger troubling issue is how much pressure Hawaii is getting on quarterback Caleb Herring, though on a couple of plays he’s helped them out by turning right into the defenders.

With a little more execution, UNLV should be able to respond to Hawaii’s score.

•••

UNLV 0, Hawaii 0

End of the first quarter

The first quarter ended in a scoreless tie, but it wasn’t for a lack of opportunities. Both teams had -- and wasted -- many chances to get on the board.

UNLV’s missed opportunities are more obvious. Twice the Rebels got into the red zone, including getting all the way down to the 2-yard line, and twice they came up empty after attempting fourth-down conversions.

On the first one, Caleb Herring was sacked for a big loss on fourth-and-two from the 2-yard line when he tried a bootleg run. And on the second attempt, Tim Cornett was stuffed around the 20-yard line on fourth-and-one.

Hawaii’s mistakes have been things like dropped passes. Multiple times the Rainbow Warriors could have had first downs or even more but the receivers just didn’t hold on.

If one of these teams starts converting some of those chances then we won’t be scoreless much longer.

•••

The good vibes about UNLV football have been all around Las Vegas for the past two weeks, and as long as the Rebels don’t beat themselves, that should continue for another week.

The Rebels (3-2, 1-0) are nearly 10-point favorites today against Hawaii (0-5, 0-3) in a game that kicks off at 5 p.m. at Sam Boyd Stadium. It will stream online at UNLVRebels.com via the Mountain West Network.

Despite the blowout the Rainbow Warriors handed UNLV at the end of the year last season, the home team is clearly the better team and will have a chance to put this one away in the first half.

This three-game winning streak has included two awful first-half performances and putting away a conference opponent, even one as woeful as the Rainbow Warriors, would be progress. Of course, Hawaii has proved that big deficits don’t mean it’s going away.

Two weeks ago, Hawaii trailed Fresno State 42-3 in the third quarter, and quarterback Sean Schroeder led a furious rally that fell short in a 42-37 loss. The Rainbow Warriors also trailed by 20 in the third quarter last week against San Jose State before falling by 10.

So a big lead doesn’t necessarily mean an easy win for UNLV, but that’s still a good place to start. And speaking of starts, UNLV still isn’t sure whom it’s going to face at quarterback today.

Opening-game starter Taylor Graham, an Ohio State transfer, hasn’t played in couple of weeks after hurting his nonthrowing shoulder. He was expected to be near ready to play by this weekend; Hawaii coach Norm Chow has said that when Graham is healthy, it’s his job.

If he can’t go, Ikaika Woolsey and Schroeder may split snaps. Schroeder, a Duke transfer, has been Hawaii’s best quarterback this year. Last season, he threw for 201 yards and a score against UNLV.

No matter who starts, it would be nice for the Rebels to come out stronger defensively than they have recently. They’ve made great adjustments in recent games, and Tim Hauck’s blitz packages have added some variety. Moving forward, the goal has to be to implement those things more effectively earlier in the game.

Bern’s prediction: Things have been so positive lately — and attendance should be so good today — that it’d be a shame for UNLV to stub its toe on a winless Rainbow Warriors team. It’s certainly possible, but I like the Rebels to keep Hawaii at an arm’s length most of the game and then score late to make it look more lopsided. UNLV 42, Hawaii 25

Season: ATS 3-2, O/U 2-2-1

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or taylor.bern@lasvegassun.com. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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