Rebels keep their bowl hopes alive, 22-14

Mike Sanford came into the post-game interview room with a wet head of hair and a jacket still showing the effects of a sideline Gatorade shower. "The best shower I've had in my life," Sanford said with a smile.

UNLV's 22-14 victory over Wyoming on Thursday night may have set the stage for an even better dousing in nine days when the Rebels play their regular season finale at San Diego State. UNLV (5-6, 2-5) could become bowl eligible for the first time since 2003 with a victory next week.

Thursday night's win was one of redemption for a much-maligned Rebel defense that came up with a pair of big fourth quarter interceptions while also holding the Cowboys to just five first downs and 132 total yards in the second half. And safety Terrance Lee clinched the game with a huge special teams play when he wrestled away the ball from Wyoming punt returner Brandon Stewart at the Wyoming 31 with 1:41 to go.

"That play at the end of the game, where Terrance Lee ripped the ball out of the guy's hands, was a tremendous play," Sanford said. "Our defense is getting better and better. They are playing together. We had tipped passes for interceptions. That's a sign that you're playing good team defense."

Freshman linebacker Nate Carter also made a couple of big tackles on third down running plays by Wyoming tailback Devin Moore, who was held to 91 yards on 18 carries and no touchdowns. The starting Rebel linebacker corps of Carter, Ronnie Paulo and Jason Beauchamp combined for 27 tackles including 10 each by Carter and Paulo.

But it was a pair of fourth quarter interceptions that keyed this win.

The first was by senior linebacker Rusty Worthen who snagged a tipped Craig Stutzriem pass (by corner Geoff Howard) in the air at the Wyoming 39 and returned it 15 yards to the 24. Three plays later, freshman quarterback Mike Clausen hit Rodelin Anthony with a 19-yard touchdown pass to increase UNLV's lead to 22-14.

Then with 4:52 to go, corner Quinton Pointer intercepted another tipped Stutzriem pass in the end zone to stop a late Wyoming scoring threat. Safety Daryl Forte deflected the pass that was intended for wide receiver David Leonard.

Offensively, Clausen sparkled again in his second college start, completing 16 of 30 passes for 138 yards including the 19-yard touchdown pass to Anthony in the fourth quarter that increased UNLV's lead to eight points.

"I am just very proud of our football team," Sanford said. "I am proud of what we accomplished tonight. We have a tremendous senior class that I am very proud of as far as their attitude and the standard and foundation they have set for this program."

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