Sometime during his record night, sometime long after his reception total reached double digits, Randy Gatewood remembers an Idaho defensive back yammering in his ear.
“I think he was a backup guy,” Gatewood said, shaking his head Sunday afternoon, the scabs on his arms the only visible reminder of the previous night as he sat in the Nevada Las Vegas athletic offices.
“I guess he was kind of getting fed up, he started trying to talk to me a lot, mouthing off, and I ended up beating him a couple of times. I can’t tell you what I said, but I told him something.
“And after that, none of them said anything else to me.”
Although UNLV lost to Idaho, 48-38, Gatewood set NCAA single-game records for receptions (23) and receiving yards (363) while carrying the Rebel offense almost all the way back from a 45-10 deficit.
The previous records of 22 receptions by Brigham Young’s Jay Miller and 349 yards by Chuck Hughes of Texas El Paso had stood for 21 and 29 years, respectively.
In the fourth quarter alone, Gatewood, a 6-foot senior from Wichita Falls, Tex., caught 13 passes for 207 yards. Gatewood also chipped in 56 return yards, giving him 419 all-purpose yards. All from a receiver who says he had never caught more than nine passes in a game before Saturday.
“Once you catch a couple of tough ones, you kind of get in that zone where all you see is the ball,” Gatewood said. “All you really think about is the ball and you don’t worry about the defenders, you don’t worry about anything else.
“Everything thrown my way, I just felt like I was Superman. I could catch everything.”
In a full season at UNLV last year, Gatewood, a junior college transfer, caught 40 passes for 629 yards. In three games this year, Gatewood has 39 receptions for 610 yards to lead both categories nationally.
Under first-year Coach Jeff Horton, whose 1993 Nevada program led the nation in passing offense, the Rebels have opened the offense. Saturday night, playing catch-up, two quarterbacks threw a combined 79 passes for 635 yards.
Jason Davis, who did not enter the game until four minutes remained in the third quarter, was 30 of 46 for 381 yards and four touchdowns, setting NCAA records for most passing yards (347) and completions (25) in a quarter.
Horton says he wants his offense to have the same impact on college football that the Loyola Marymount program had on college basketball in the ‘80s.
“I want to be the Paul Westhead of football,” Horton said. “I want to play fast-break football, run as many plays as we can. The more plays we run, the better chance we have to score, the more opportunities, anyway.”
Gatewood said he hoped his historic performance would put the new UNLV system on the map.
“I think it can help me, help the program, help the quarterbacks, help everyone involved,” Gatewood said. “I’m just glad things turned out the way it did, because in years past UNLV had some problems with football, so now, I couldn’t have come to a better place at a better time.”
Gatewood plays the slot position in UNLV’s three-wideout formation.
Saturday night, Idaho chose to blitz often, leaving the middle wide open for Gatewood, who says that, after a while, he and Davis, who attended Eisenhower High in Rialto, understood that he would be open and that the ball would be there.
“That’s basically what it turned into,” Gatewood said, “you run the route, you get open, you catch the ball. That’s all we did.”
As he ponders his status in next year’s NFL draft, Gatewood says he has been timed in about 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash, not particularly fast for a receiver.
“I’ve never run a good 40 time,” Gatewood said. “It seems like in all my years of playing, I never ran a good 40. But I was always able to get open, even catch the deep balls.
“Now I’m starting to do a lot of great things, with a lot of hard work, a lot of pressure the coaches are putting on us.
“I think it’s going to be all right, though.”