Brian Pruitt sat out and Henry Bailey stood out. The result was an unexpected blowout of Central Michigan by UNLV in the Las Vegas Bowl.

With Pruitt, an outstanding running back, unable to play because of a bruised knee, Central Michigan couldn't get its running game untracked. UNLV's running backs were healthy, but it was a wide receiver who led the Rebels on the ground.Bailey scored three touchdowns running and added another with a 46-yard reception Thursday night as UNLV celebrated its first Las Vegas Bowl appearance with a 52-24 rout of Central Michigan.

"I felt I had a lot to prove," Bailey said. "I came in here with a lot of confidence, a lot of confidence."

Bailey, who scored three of the five times he lined up in the backfield, rushed for 79 yards and caught passes for 101 more as UNLV opened a 31-10 halftime lead and cruised to the win over the Chippewas.

"We've always wanted to do that with Henry," UNLV coach Jeff Horton said. "Once No. 33 gets a step on you, look out."

Bailey, who scored the first two times UNLV had the ball, had only rushed 16 times for 50 yards all season.

"I didn't expect us to come out and run so much, but they gave it to us," Bailey said.

Central Michigan was playing without Pruitt, who rushed for 274 yards when the Chippewas beat UNLV 35-23 earlier this season in Michigan. Pruitt bruised a knee in practice and was listed as questionable for the game.

"We decided at the beginning of the game after warmups when he couldn't cut like he wanted to that he wouldn't play," Central Michigan coach Dick Flynn said. "He wanted to very badly and he's extremely disappointed."

Pruitt, though, may not have been enough on a night where everything went well for the Big West Conference champoins.

"He's a great back, but there's a lot of things we didn't do," Flynn said. "His presence may not have made the difference."

Playing before a home crowd of 17,562 that included as many Central Michigan fans as from UNLV, the Rebels scored 38 consecutive points to open the major college bowl season with their first postseason win in a decade.

UNLV (7-5) did it in spectacular fashion, making big play after big play against a porous and tiring Chippewas defense. Central Michigan scored two meaningless touchdowns late in the game with UNLV's second team on the field.

"UNLV is back to say," Horton exulted as he capped his first year coaching the Rebels.

Pruitt's absence was felt as Central Michigan (9-3) could not control the ball on the ground and could not stop UNLV on defense in a game that matched the winners of the Mid-American and Big West conferences.

UNLV turned the game into a rout early in the second half, taking only 41 seconds to score on its first possession of the half. The Rebels needed only five plays to go 75 yards on their next possession to go ahead 45-10 midway through the third quarter.

"We made too many mistakes versus an outstanding football team," Flynn said. "The result showed on the scoreboard."

Bailey, alternating between lining up as a wide receiver and in the backfield, had 177 yards in the first half as he ran for two scores and caught a pass for another. He opened the second half for the Rebels by going over from a yard out for his fourth score.

Central Michigan came back to threaten briefly in the first half, pulling to 14-10 on a 53-yard pass from Erik Timpf to Terrance McMillan on the last play of the first quarter.