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UNLV Beats Nevada, Gets Bowl Bid

November 20, 1994|ELLIOTT TEAFORD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LAS VEGAS — The tumult, long-range salvos and bitter feelings of the past year died a noisy death as dusk fell on Sam Boyd Stadium on Saturday.

The Battle of Nevada had been fought and won in remarkable fashion by Nevada Las Vegas, 32-27, over rival Nevada.

There were no ugly scenes, no fistfights, few confrontations and, in the end, no bad feelings between the two men who made this such an intriguing matchup.

UNLV Coach Jeff Horton, called a traitor among other things by Nevada Coach Chris Ault after Horton abruptly left Reno for Las Vegas last November, met his mentor and his toughest critic face-to-face.

All around them was chaos, as UNLV players and fans celebrated a come-from-behind victory that earned the Rebels a share of the Big West championship and their first bowl bid in 10 years. They'll play Central Michigan in the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 17 after finishing the regular season against Kansas State next Saturday.

When Saturday's game was over, after UNLV lost a 26-14 lead only to regain it in the game's final minute, Horton and Ault spoke in conciliatory tones.

Horton had been hired by Ault, who also is Nevada's athletic director, to replace him as football coach last year. But after 5 1/2 months on the job, Horton jumped to UNLV to pump new life into the sagging program. Never mind that Ault had turned down the job himself four days earlier. Ault unleashed his anger on Horton.

Horton fired back, saying the move to UNLV was his only way out of Ault's shadow. By game's end Saturday, that ill will seemed to be forgotten.

"Chris Ault gave me my start in college, not only as an assistant, but as a head coach as well," Horton said. "I owe him so much. I respect him so much. Hopefully, everything is behind us now."

Said Ault: "The bottom line is it's a football game. Two teams played and they outplayed us."

DeJohn Branch's four-yard touchdown run with 58 seconds left in the game ended an 80-yard drive into a 25 m.p.h. headwind and made UNLV, 6-4 overall and 5-1 in the Big West, a winner for the first time in five games against Nevada (9-2, 5-1).

With 2:32 to play and the ball at their own 20, the Rebel players huddled. Moments earlier, Marcellus Chrishon had given Nevada a 27-26 lead by turning a draw play into a 38-yard touchdown.

Now, UNLV was heading into the wind with time running out.

A 30-yard pass play to wideout Kofi Banks, open over the middle, set up Branch's four-yard scoring run.

"I guarantee you," Brown said later. "we couldn't have done it without Coach Horton. He made all the difference."

Said Branch: "I guess this was the biggest win ever for UNLV football."

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