Nevada Loses Heartbreaker to Rivals UNLV

“I remember how excited Coach Ault was about the game. It was our first goal to accomplish every year; win that State Championship.”

John Bender is a former offensive lineman for the Nevada Wolf Pack. He reminisced with me on his days sporting the silver and blue when they faced their main rivals, the UNLV Rebels.

In the same week the Pittsburgh Steelers took on the Baltimore Ravens and the Boston Red Sox played the New York Yankees, another rivalry occurred in Reno, Nevada. Rebels versus Wolf Pack; a rivlary out of text books of college sports. The two teams battle it out year after year in hopes of attaining the Fremont Cannon.

What's the Fremont Cannon?

I'm glad you asked.

The cannon holds place of a trophy for the “Governor Series” and year after year the team who wins, paints it with their respective colors. They call it the biggest and most expensive trophy in all of football.

The Wolf Pack has defeated UNLV nine out of the last ten meetings heading into this game.

“Rivalries are important.” says head coach Brian Polian. “I don't want to take away from that,” he adds.

Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval stood at the fifty yard line with the coin toss. The Wolf Pack won the toss, this of course occurred moments after the Rebels ran on to Chris Ault field swarmed with booing from the crowd.

The crowd quickly changed gears shouting “Let's go Wolf Pack,” but that didn't help. UNLV's Xzavier Campbell was on the carry, and it seemed to continue a trend for Campbell. The 5'11” freshman had the ball multiple times in the first quarter ending with 27 yards.

Keith Whitely snagged the ball for the Rebels. The running back went for a 31-yard run into the end zone for the first touchdown of the game. The kick was good and the first score on the board became 7­-0, UNLV. He finished with 61 yards on the quarter.

Nevada's Dameon Barber however made a stellar play when he picked off the Rebels on it's own third-yard line.

Nevada's Malik Reed added a sack to the defensive confidence against Blake Decker with around four minutes left in the second half.

The defense continued to be impressive for the silver and blue up to this point, however the score remained 7-0 with the Rebels in the lead.

Wait, I spoke too soon.

Rebels' Kurt Palandech had the 12-yard rushing touchdown to make the score 13-0.

Nicolai Bornand attempted the extra point, and it seemed to be good, until officials put the kick under review. But it turns out, the kick was not good; this was the loudest the crowd has been all day.

At halftime the score stood at 13-0 with UNLV leading the way.

My Halftime Notes:

It was looking as if the cannon would indeed be painted red this time. I know, it seems like I'm being a Negative Nancy. Don't get me wrong, I'm a firm believer in second chances, but the offense was sloppy. Quarterback Tyler Stewart could not seem to connect with any of the running backs, and even with the defense as strong as it was, the Wolf Pack still allowed 13 points on the board. Still, for some reason the Nevada fans stayed put. It honestly warmed my heart.

The second half opened up as usual, but it seemed like something was said to the Wolf Pack during halftime, because there was a different energy about them.

Kicker Brent Zuzo had the first score for the Wolf Pack with a field goal.

The Wolf Pack still tailed 13-3; still depressing, but a little less depressing perhaps.

The Wolf Pack scores with 10:47 remaining in the 3rd quarter with a throw to Jerico Richardson, and the kick is good by Zuzo.

The score is now 13-10, Rebels.

This was probably the first time the crowd got up off of their feet in a while when the Wolf Pack opened up for the next play.

It wasn't long before the Rebels fired back with a 52-yard interception by Ryan McAleenan to score a touchdown, and the kick was good.

What a strange game.

The Rebels now lead 20-10.

Stewart's running game has been noticeable. Is he Colin Kaepernick-esque? Absolutely not, but there are indeed similarities there, not in the numbers, but in the form and confidence.

The Wolf Pack are down, but not out at this point.

Don Jackson with a one-yard rush for a Nevada touchdown turned up the volume at Mackay Stadium.

Zuzo is once again good with his field goal game.

The Wolf Pack now trail 17-20. Grab a paper bag and start breathing into it.

There is 4:50 left in the game, and there are still people in the crowd.

Can't stop, won't stop.

Turn down for what is playing in the back ground as the game continues.

The Rebels have the ball, but the play is incomplete. The crowd (all 29,551 of them) continues to get louder and louder.

The Rebels took their timeout, and the game was back on. They then attempted a 45-yard field goal, and it was good.

The score stands at 23-17 with 1:53 left in the game.

The Wolf Pack now has the ball, and attempt several times to make a play; without any success.

As you are used to seeing playing Super Mario: Game Over.

So now the cannon is red with a final score of 23-17, the Rebels win it.

Polian had plenty to say as far as the game went, much like he usually does. However, when he talks, you listen.

“The first half was ugly, we had too many penalties that killed us,” says head coach Brian Polian. “There were way too many self inflicted wounds,” he adds.

Coach was also aware there were many times for opportunities to win the game.

“You just got to make plays,” says Polian. “We gotta find a way. When you have an opportunity to make plays, you have to make them.”

He told the guys in the locker room after the game that there are no excuses and they didn't deserve to win the game.

“Credit UNLV, they made more plays than we did. There is a lot of football left in front of us,” adds Polian.

The players of course had plenty to say on the loss as well.

“As a general consensus we are disappointed,” says linebacker Jordan Dobrich. “We did not play our best tonight.”

“Everybody's crushed man,” says running back Don Jackson who finished the game with 36 rushing yards and one touchdown.

“But we feel togetherness,” he adds.

“Scoring zero points in the first half is never going to set us up for a good game. I'm not going to let UNLV beat this team twice, it's as simple as that,” he explains. “This is an opponent I respect.”

“We have to be able to get better, but tt's definitely a learning experience.”

We were all curious to know what the vibe was in the locker room after the game.

“We aren't pointing fingers,” says Jackson. “It's 'I love you man.'”

“Winning is motivation, but losses, they show you things.” We have to make sure we learn from this.”

He looks outside to see the rain covering the concrete and says “when it rains, it pours.”

We laugh.

The Wolf Pack take on New Mexico Saturday October 10 again at Mackay Stadium at 4pm Pacific time.

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