Saturday, Oct. 3, 2009 | 2 a.m.
A special Fremont Cannon edition of who’s going to the penthouse in local sports — and who’s getting the shaft:
John C. Fremont
It’s a good thing the military man, explorer and the Republican Party’s first candidate for president abandoned his howitzer in a snowbank while traipsing across the Sierra Nevada in January 1844, or UNLV and UNR might be playing for a really silly trophy, like the Old Oaken Slot Machine. Or a pig, like Iowa and Minnesota.
It was the UNLV coach, a UNR alum, who first proposed in 1969 that the Rebels and Wolf Pack knock helmets for the right to possess a replica of John Fremont’s cannon. The Wolf Pack beat the Rebels 30-28 on Thanksgiving Day. But the cannon, which at 545 pounds is said to be the heaviest trophy in all of college football (it cost $10,000 to build, also making it the most expensive), wasn’t completed until the next year, when the Rebels won 42-30. So you could win a bar bet by insisting UNLV was first to possess the cannon; however, if you make said bet in a Reno bar, good luck on collecting.
Parts from John Fremont’s original cannon have been on display at a ranger station in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest in California since 2006. As with both defenses, there is some debate as to their authenticity.
No game scheduled
The rivals did not play from 1980 to 1982 or in 1984, ’86 and ’88. When the series resumed annually, the Pack was ready — from 1989 to 1999, UNR won 10 of 11 meetings against UNLV and only one of the 10 was by a touchdown or less. UNLV’s only solace during those 10 years was a 32-27 decision in 1994, which might explain one of the inscriptions found inside the barrel of the cannon during those days: University of Notta Lotta Victories. The Pack leads the series 19-15. The name-calling between the sides is even.
A lot of things have flown through the air at UNLV-UNR games that haven’t been footballs. In 1995 there was a pregame brawl, and after the Wolf Pack went for two to cap a 55-32 victory, a UNLV defensive back named Quincy Sanders tossed his helmet at UNR coach Chris Ault. He missed. Rebels coach John Robinson wasn’t as fortunate in 2003 when he was hit in the eye with a water bottle as the teams left the field at halftime.
After UNR beat UNLV for the first time in five years in 1978, Wolf Pack coach Chris Ault talked McCarran Airport officials into allowing his players to break down the Fremont Cannon into pieces, which they took into the cabin. UNR star Frank Hawkins, a Las Vegas native, rode with the shiny barrel. No, it probably wouldn’t have fit in a Ziploc bag with a trial size of conditioner.