RENO - Nevada football coach Chris Ault calls the Fremont Cannon a "special trophy."
The cannon goes to the winner of the annual Nevada-UNLV football game, and ever since 1999, the cannon has been residing in Las Vegas, much to the chagrin of the Nevada football program and its supporters.
The Wolf Pack (0-1) hope to change that Saturday night (7:05 p.m., ESPNU) when they host the Rebels (1-1) at Mackay Stadium in a nonconference football game.
UNLV has outscored Nevada 150-61 the last five years, including a 48-13 thrashing last year at Las Vegas, a game which saw the Rebels score 42 unanswered points to snap a 6-all second-quarter deadlock. The only two games that have been close in that span was a 21-17 loss in Vegas in 2002 and a 16-12 loss at Mackay Stadium in 2003.
"It's the highlight of the season," Ault told reporters Monday at practice. "A win gives you something to boast about.
"It's a huge game for us. This school hasn't won in five years. It's a huge opportunity for our football program. We've got a lot of work to do in a short amount of time."
Nobody on the current Nevada roster has beaten UNLV, and for guys that have been in the program for a while like quarterback Jeff Rowe, offensive lineman Adam Kiefer, linebacker Jamaal Jackson, defensive lineman P.J. Hoeper, running back B.J. Mitchell and tight end Anthony Pudewell, it hasn't been fun.
"Last year I've blocked out of my memory," said Pudewell, who is in his fourth year in the program. "It was a disappointing game for us. It's not a confidence issue. I don't know what it is; can't put my finger on it.
"(Adam) Kiefer said that if we lost he wasn't going to leave the field. He was just going to sit out there."
Mitchell, a senior, is making his first career start against the Rebels.
"I've seen a lot and been through a lot," Mitchell said. "The last three years have been disappointing. A couple of the games have been too close for comfort; games we could have won.
"This game means everything. I'm anxious to go out there and gain a lot of yards on the ground. If they need me to pass protect that's great with me. It's about the team."
For Jeff Rowe, it's a chance to redeem himself for what he considered a sub-par outing a year ago. Rowe, who completed 15 of 24 passes for 151 yards, threw a critical first-half interception, which led the way to 42 unanswered points by UNLV, snapping a 6-all tie.
"I've never had the cannon," Rowe said. "I've never beaten UNLV."
Contact Darrell Moody at email@example.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281
THE BIG SKID
UNLV 38, Nevada 7
The Rebels scored 24 unanswered points over the final three quarters en route to an easy win over the Pack. UNLV gained 473 total yards, including 321 on the ground. David Neill was 9 for 29 passing for 136 yards, including a 30-yard scoring strike to Jermaine Brown late in the opening quarter.
UNLV 27, Nevada 12
Freshman Dominique Dorsey ran for 180 yards, as the Rebels won for the first time in Reno in 22 years. Damon Fine kicked two first-half field goals, including a record-tying 58-yarder, to give the Pack a 6-0 lead at the half. However, Nevada didn't score again until midway through the fourth quarter when Chance Kretschmer (163 yards) scored on a 9-yard run. By that time UNLV had built a 17-6 lead. The Rebels went on to score 10 points in the last three-plus minutes. David Neill completed only 10 of 27 for 99 yards before giving way to Zach Threadgill, who completed 6 of 7 passes for 73 yards on the aforementioned scoring drive.
UNLV 21, Nevada 17
This was one Nevada let get away, as the Rebels scored the go-ahead touchdown on Jason Thomas' 45-yard pass to Larry Croom with 6:03 left in the game, wiping out a 17-14 Nevada lead. The drive was helped along by a roughing the kicker penalty against the Pack on fourth-and-13 at the UNLV 35. The win was John Robinson's 200th in his illustrious career and third straight for the Rebels over the Pack. Zach Threadgill had a big game, completing 22 of 49 for 306 yards. Nate Burleson caught eight balls for 94 yards.
UNLV 16, Nevada 12
The Rebels made it four straight in the series and second straight at Mackay Stadium with another narrow win before a sellout crowd of 31,900. UNLV scored 10 fourth-quarter points to wipe out a 12-6 Nevada advantage. The UNLV defense held Nevada to 92 yards rushing. Jeff Rowe completed 11 of 24 for 143 yards. UNLV's Dillon Pieffer kicked three field goals, including one in the final quarter with 4:08 left.
UNLV 48, Nevada 13
The game was tied at 6 in the second quarter, and the Rebels went on to score 42 unanswered points to win easily. The Pack offense struggled early in the game, settling for two first-half field goals. Nevada had the advantage in time of possession (33:54-26:06) and total yards (418-366). Dominique Dorsey had another big game against the Pack, rushing for 141 yards.