Remembering Michigan football’s only other meeting with UNLV -- Harbaugh’s 3rd game as coach

Wolverines beat Rebels 28-7 in 2015

Jabrill Peppers #5 of the Michigan Wolverines looks for extra yards on a second quarter punt return while playing the UNLV Rebels on September 19, 2015 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Gregory Shamus, 2015 Getty Images)

ANN ARBOR, Mich.Michigan and UNLV will meet on the football field for just the second time ever this weekend, and it’s amazing how far the Wolverines have come during the time in between.

There was plenty of excitement in the Big House for that Sept. 19, 2015, matchup. A new era had begun. This was back when the Big Ten had 14 teams. Texas and Oklahoma were in the Big 12. The clock stopped after first downs. And Michigan’s scoreboards were a whole lot smaller.

Ah, I can remember it like it was yesterday.

READ: Everything I want to see from Michigan in 2nd game vs. UNLV

Jim Harbaugh had just returned to Michigan. Fans were hopeful that someday he would revive a broken program that had missed bowl games in three of the past seven seasons and gone more than a decade without a Big Ten title.

You’ll remember the Harbaugh era didn’t exactly get off to a smooth start. Jake Rudock threw three interceptions at Utah and Michigan started the season with a very public Thursday night defeat. The following two weeks were little more than warmup games against Oregon State and UNLV in Ann Arbor.

Even though that UNLV team ultimately finished the season 3-9, Michigan wasn’t exactly overwhelming in a 28-7 win. Sound familiar? Some things haven’t changed.

The Wolverines jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and a half and then took their foot off the gas. Rudock threw for just 123 yards and one touchdown before handing the reins over to backup quarterback Wilton Speight.

Michigan rushed for 254 yards, largely thanks to a 76-yard touchdown dash by Ty Isaac. Jehu Chesson also scored on a 36-yard jet sweep. De’Veon Smith earned 13 carries but gained just 33 yards.

Ty Isaac #32 of the Michigan Wolverines runs for a second quarter touchdown while playing the UNLV Rebels on September 19, 2015 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (2015 Getty Images)

The defense held UNLV to 235 yards while picking off two passes -- one each by Channing Stribling and Jeremy Clark.

That was the start of what’s turned into a longer journey than many expected. Through all the rumors and realities about Harbaugh flirting with NFL jobs, this is suddenly Year 9 of his Michigan tenure, and he’s taken the program exactly where everyone hoped.

Two straight wins over Ohio State. Two Big Ten championships. Two trips to the College Football Playoff. Michigan is no longer a yearly punching bag for Michigan State, or a punchline after every meaningful matchup. (Take that, Finebaum.)

There were 108,683 people in the Big House last time UNLV visited, and I’m sure many of those same fans will be at the rematch this weekend. But now, eight years later, that anticipation of what the program could be has been replaced by excitement about what the program actually is: a national championship contender.

Fans always dreamed this would happen. Who knows, Saturday’s score might be 28-7 again. But this time, it could be the second step toward something a little more special.

About the Author:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.