UNLV playing for bowl, coach's job against AFA

November 10, 2009
photo - In his fifth season at UNLV, coach Mike Sanford has a 15-42 record. Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
In his fifth season at UNLV, coach Mike Sanford has a 15-42 record. Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS 

Air Force quarterback Tim Jefferson expects his Falcons will face a “very desperate” team Saturday when UNLV visits Falcon Stadium.

The Rebels, at 4-6, need to beat Air Force and then topple San Diego State in their regular-season finale to become bowl eligible.

“They know that if we win this game, their chances of going to a bowl are dashed,” Jefferson said.

And there’s more at stake than just the Rebels’ first bowl bid since 2000. Like coach Mike Sanford’s job.

In his fifth season at UNLV, Sanford has a 15-42 mark. His Rebels won just two games in each of his first three seasons and five in 2008. But after a 2-1 start this season, they lost five of their next six games, three by 35 or more points. After the second loss in that stretch, a 63-28 drubbing by Nevada, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that UNLV president Neal Smatresk was troubled by the state of the program. And the paper wrote last week that the Rebels likely had to reach a bowl game for Sanford to get a sixth year.

Senior receiver Ryan Wolfe said reaching a bowl would be “huge” for UNLV, but when asked if the Rebels are playing for Sanford’s job, he said, “That’s out of our control. As players, we want to go out and do our best and come away with a victory.”

They did that last week, defeating Colorado State, 35-16, to keep their bowl hopes — and improving Sanford’s chances of another season — alive.

“We took the pressure as an opportunity rather than taking it as a negative or whatever you want to call it,” Sanford said. “We handled it well, and I expect us to handle it well this week.”

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