FRESNO, Calif. -- University of Nevada-Las Vegas coach Harvey Hyde knew exactly what his Rebels had to do to defeat Toledo in the fourth annual California Bowl -- they had to stop Rocket running back Steve Morgan.
The senior back ran wild in the first half and early in the third quarter to keep the Rockets close, but the UNLV defense shut him down the rest of the way Saturday and the Rebels closed out their most succesful season ever with a 30-13 victory.
'The key was we played sound defense in the second half and stopped their run pretty well,' Hyde said over the din of the locker-room celebration. 'We forced them to pass more than they like to and that is exactly what we wanted to do.'
Morgan, named Toledo's MVP for the game, picked up 125 yards on 21 carries in the first half and finished with 154 yards on 31 attempts.
UNLV, 11-2, scored first when quarterback Randall Cunningham capped a 73-yard, 3-play drive with a picture perfect 14-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Tony Gladney. Toledo came back and made it 7-3 late in the opening quarter when David Walker hit a 22-yard field goal to culminate a 75-yard, 13-play drive.
Cunningham then took over, completing a pair of 11-yard passes and single passes of 19 and 18 yards to move the ball deep into Rocket territory. The senior quarterback capped the 80-yard drive with a 7-yard scoring pass to running back Kirk Jones.
Toledo scored its final points of the first half when Walker connected on a 36-yard field goal.
In the second half, the game swung in the Rebels favor.
Joey DiGiovanna hit a 44-yard field goal to give UNLV a 16-6 lead, but Toledo cameright back again to close to 16-13 when quarterback A.J. Sager teamed up with wide receiver Bill Poure on a 38-yard touchdown play with about six minutes to go in the third quarter.
UNLV then exploded for a pair of touchdowns -- a 16-yard touchdown run by freshman halfback Elbert Woods and a 10-yard Cunningham run -- to ice the victory.
'I think we gained the momentum for good when we scored real quickly after their touchdown,' Hyde said. 'Toledo had gotten the momentum and we took it right back.'
Toledo coach Dan Simrell said the difference came down to the fact that UNLV executed its game plan better. The Rockets came in looking to control the ball and they did. Toledo had the ball for 37:44 while the Rebels had it just 22:16.
'Las Vegas had a good game plan and they made it work,' he said. 'Our goal was to keep the ball, which we did. Unfortunately, Cunningham and those big, fast recievers made the most of the time they had.'
Cunningham, named UNLV's MVP for the game, finished the game having completed 18-of-28 passes for 270 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
The senior said his job was made easier because of the outstanding job done by his offensive line and running backs.
'I had plenty of time to look for receivers in the second half,' Cunningham said. 'With the way our people were running the ball, they (Toledo's defense) couldn't just concentrate on our receivers.'
Toledo, 8-3-1, is 1-1 in California Bowl competition. The Rockets won the first California Bowl game in 1981.