DALLAS (AP) — North Texas is going to its first bowl game since 2004, accepting an invitation Sunday to play in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
UNLV has waited even longer to get into another bowl game.
In a New Year’s Day matchup at the Cotton Bowl stadium, the Rebels (7-5) will play their first postseason game since the 2000 Las Vegas Bowl.
“We do kind of mirror each other,” fourth-year UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said. “Sort of like the guys at North Texas, we’ve had to kind of believe in ourselves when maybe there wasn’t a whole lot of others that could, or should. It’s just tremendously rewarding to be where we are right now.”
North Texas (8-4) has won six of its last seven games in its 100th anniversary season of football, and its first in Conference USA. The bowl comes in the third season under coach Dan McCarney, who took over a program that had gone 13-58 the six seasons before he arrived.
“This is validation for all the hard work put in by this team and the leadership of this senior class,” McCarney said.
The Mean Green last played a postseason game in the 2004 New Orleans Bowl, their fourth consecutive appearance in that game as the Sun Belt Conference representative. The only other time they played on New Year’s Day was the 1948 Salad Bowl, the precursor to the Fiesta Bowl in Arizona.
McCarney is the former Iowa State coach who took the Cyclones to five bowls in a span of six seasons (2000-05). After resigning from Iowa State, he spent a season as South Florida’s defensive line coach before three seasons in the same position at Florida.
Hauck went to UNLV from Montana, which he led to three FCS championship games in seven seasons.
With seven wins this year, UNLV has one more win that its total in Hauck’s first three seasons, when the Rebels of the Mountain West Conference went 2-11 twice and 2-10 the other time. They were 18-52 in the six seasons before he got there.
This is UNLV’s fourth bowl game. The last two were in Las Vegas, and the only one away from home was the 1984 California Bowl.
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