Sept. 11, 1999
WACO, Texas -
UNLV's Kevin Thomas returned a fumble 99-yard to
score a touchdown with no time remaining as the
Rebles upset Baylor 27-24 at Floyd Casey Stadium
in Waco Saturday night.
The Bears led 24-21 with four seconds left on the
clock when Darrell Bush was stripped on the goal
line at the UNLV one yard line while trying to
push his way to the endzone. But just when
victory seemed assured, Rebel defensive back
Thomas picked up the ball and returned it 99
yards for the touchdown as time expired.
"We were trying to create an atmospshere where we
line up and get after people," coach Kevin Steele
said of his decision not to have his quarterback
take a knee on the game's final play. "We had
been telling the players all week we needed to
get after people. It was a one-in-a-million play,
the most unbelievable thing I've ever seen."<
"It all rests right here," he added, pointing to
himself. "It will go down in history as one of
the great, 'Why did you do it?' questions."
So stunning was the game's final play, many
doubted Thomas had pulled it off. The snap came
with time running out and the Bears camped at the
eight. With Bush struggling to score, the ball
popped free at Thomas feet. He simply pick it up
and took off to the offense's right.
His run in front of his own team's bench sent the
Rebels pouring onto the field while the Bears
stood stunned in disbelief.
"The players are hurting," Steele said. "We know
there will be flaming arrows coming from all
directions. We'll have to stand up and take it."
The Bears had several scoring opportunities in
the early going, but didn't take advantage of
Baylor got the game's first big break after
stopping UNLV's first drive. Rebel punter Ryan
McDonald lined up in punt formation deep in his
own territory, but a low snap kept him from
getting off the kick. McKinley Bowie broke
through for the tackle at the seven yard line.
Three plays later Bear quarterback Jermaine
Alfred found Lanny O'Steen in the left corner of
the endzone on a perfectly executed fade
pattern. With 9:08 to play in the first, Baylor
Baylor got another boost on the next Rebel series
when linebacker Rodney Smith slammed into UNLV
tailback James Wofford and forced a fumble. Smith
recovered the loose ball, setting up Baylor on
its own 40.
The Bear drive reached the one on fourth down
where Elijah Burkins tried the left side with an
option pitch. The Bear tailback gained a couple
of feet but couldn't cross the goal line as the
ball went over on downs.
On the next drive, the Bear defense yielded but a
couple of feet, forcing a Rebel punt from the
endzone. A harried McDonald got it off, but
Andra Fuller returned it to the Rebel 32. For
the second time, though, the Bears couldn't take
advantage of the good field position as the drive
"We had a number of opportunities in the first
and second quarters, but we let them hang
around," Steele said.
After holding the Rebels again, the Bears opened
the second quarter by driving 51 yards on 10
plays to set up a 32-yard Kyle Atteberry field
drive consumed 3:19 and made it 10-0, Baylor,
with 11:26 to go in the half.
Baylor applied outstanding defensive pressure on
the next Rebel series. Smith sacked QB Jason
Vaughn once and blitzes caused bad throws on a
couple of other plays. The next Bear drive
garnered no points and set the stage for UNLV's
first scoring march of the night, one that
featured a sharp blend of the run and pass.
After moving the ball 81 yards on 10 plays,
Vaughn spotted Nate Tuner in the left flat and he
found the endzone on the four-yard scoring toss,
making it 10-7 with 1:21 before intermission.
The Bears responded with a promising drive of
their own as Alfred got the Bears down to the 10,
but Kyle Atteberry missed a 27-yard field goal
bounced off the left upright, keeping score 10-7
at the half.
The Rebels took the second half kick and reached
the Bear 32 where they faced a fourth-and-nine.
Vaughn saw strong pressure as he rolled right. He
completed an eight-yard pass and the Bears took
over on downs.
Baylor couldn't mount a drive and UNLV took back
over at its own 30 after Atteberry's punt. It
took the Rebels eight plays to cover those 70
claim their first lead of the game as Jeremy
Rudolph capped it off with a dive over the top
from the one. With 4:50 to go in the third, the
visitors had claimed a 14-10 margin.
After the Bears got the ball back, they saw
another opportunity go awry when Darrell Bush
bolted down the left sideline for 66 yards to the
14. But the play was wiped out by an illegal
The Bears moved the ball out to mid-field before
the drive stalled, setting the stage for more
heroics from BU linebacker Smith, who forced his
second fumble of the game at the Rebel 20.
Curtis Henderson picked up the loose ball and
returned it to the Rebel 16.
That set the stage for a couple of bullish
carries by Baylor fullback Derek Lagway and
quarterback sneak by Alfred from the one.
When Atteberry tacked on the PAT, Baylor
reclaimed the lead at 17-14 with 14:58 to go in
Smith played a big role in stopping the next
Rebel drive as he sacked Vaughn for a six-yard
loss, but the Bears couldn't capitalize. After
reaching the UNLV 40, BU's Adrian White fumbled
down to the Rebel 33.
Nevada-Las Vegas took that momentum and
translated it into a 12-play, 67-yard scoring
drive. Vaughn hit Turner in the right flat, where
he scored to
make it 21-7, UNLV, with 7:07 left to play.
Baylor refused to die, though, as Burkins
countered with a 53-yard kickoff return to Rebel
44. Very quickly Bush got the Bears down to
the 26 with a run around right end and a 15-yard
late hit penalty on the play moved the ball
downto nine. Bush put the Bears back on top with
a 10-yard run.
After a three-play, 42-yard drive that consumed
only 47 seconds, the Bears led 24-21.
The Bears quickly forced UNLV to punt, and Baylor
started its final drive at the UNLV 42 yard
line. Six consecutive runs got Baylor inside the
UNLV 10, but Bush's fumble at the one allowed
UNLV to score with no time on the clock for the
"It wasn't Darrell's fault," Steele said. "I
can't tell you how badly I feel for him. I'll
promise you this, though. Kevin Steele is not
quitting, this staff is not quitting and this
team is not quitting."