Rebels football:

Rivalry Weak: UNLV aims to pick up its slack in in-state battle against UNR

The hostility is always there between the Rebels and the Wolf Pack, but Hauck says UNLV must win in order to add to game’s meaning

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Associated Press

The Fremont Cannon sat in the corner of Sam Boyd Stadium on Oct. 2, 2010, as UNR defeated UNLV 44-26 and kept the trophy. The teams get together Saturday at noon in Las Vegas with the Rebels trying to snap a seven-game losing streak in the series.

The Rebels see it every day, a navy blue reminder of what’s at stake Saturday when they step on the field at high noon. The Fremont Cannon has lived in Reno for the past seven years, but a picture of it motivates, or maybe taunts, UNLV inside its own locker room. The picture isn’t big because it doesn’t have to be. Everyone on the team knows what it looks like, and they would love nothing more than to give it a new paint job.

“To beat Reno my senior year, it would mean everything,” offensive lineman Yusef Rodgers said.

UNLV (1-5, 1-0) hosts UNR (5-1, 2-0) in a game to be televised by Time Warner Cable SportsNet. It’s the teams’ 38th meeting and their fifth as conference opponents. UNLV’s last victory in the series was a 48-13 victory at home in 2004 under coach John Robinson.

Since then, former coach Mike Sanford and current leader Bobby Hauck have combined to go 0-7 in the in-state battle, losing by an average margin of more than three touchdowns. Hauck said Monday at the Lied Athletic Complex that the dislike of each other is as strong as ever between the two squads, but the results are limiting the series' potential.

“If it’s a real rivalry, one of them’s got to win it once in a while, that being us,” Hauck said. “We need to win this game.”

The line isn’t available at most sports books right now because Wolf Pack quarterback Cody Fajardo is questionable because of a back injury. He suffered the injury two weeks ago in practice and then was forced to leave last Saturday’s game early because of it. Backup Devin Combs performed well and the Wolf Pack survived at home in overtime, 35-28, against Wyoming.

Hauck said the Rebels wouldn’t prepare much differently because of Fajardo’s questionable status. No matter who’s running the offense, it’s still the same system, and the Wolf Pack still have the nation’s leading rusher, junior Stefphon Jefferson.

Saturday was by far Jefferson’s worst game of the season. He tallied 78 rushing yards — his previous low this year was 135 — and failed to find the end zone. If there’s something to learn from Wyoming’s defense, the Rebels need to study up, because they have had a hard time this year stopping anybody, let alone a guy averaging more than five yards every time he touches the ball.

“It will take our best effort this week to find a way to win,” Hauck said.

That includes eliminating the multitude of mistakes such as dropped passes, poor special teams and ill-timed penalties that have plagued the Rebels this year. Fixing that all by Saturday doesn’t seem feasible, but if there was ever a week to do it, this is the one.

This game is on the Rebels’ minds all year, from the second last year's ended until this one kicks off. It’s brought up several times during the offseason and, of course, there’s that constant reminder in the locker room.

“It’s a game that’s always on our minds,” Rodgers said. "We never forget.”

The picture of the Fremont Cannon in UNLV’s locker room is smaller than most TV screens. The cannon in Reno weighs 545 pounds and cost about $10,000 to build, making it the heaviest and most expensive trophy in college football.

UNLV would love nothing more than to swap out its photo for the real deal, including a fresh coat of red paint. Completing that task likely will require a better performance than the Rebels have put forth in any complete game this year, plus a little luck. Fajardo missing the game would help, though backup quarterbacks for Northern Arizona and Washington State were good enough to get the job done.

At this point, UNLV’s focus is on corralling all of its anger and frustration from this year and this series and trying to turn it into something positive. Hauck doesn’t need to do anything extra to get his team amped up. The rivalry, though uneven, means a lot to guys on both sidelines. The Rebels have been staring at that cannon every day, and on Saturday it will be in the corner of the stadium waiting for someone to claim it.

They’ve been waiting all year for this chance.

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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  1. OK, Rebs. I'm getting older. Some would say I'm already old. I don't have all that many years left here on Earth. Could we please beat Little Reno Tech at least once more before I die?

    I need to see that pained expression of defeat on the face of the 'Biggest Little Coach in the World'. I need alumni bragging rights. I need to bask in the reflected glory of a win by my team.

    Plus, heavy artillery looks much better painted scarlet than blue.

  2. What he said!

  3. Please just beat Reno my goodness. I LITERALLY don't care what happens the rest of season. Just beat them.

  4. I see the potential of the players on this squad. We're a couple D lineman and DB's from respectability. I know a lot of people don't like Hauck. He should realize a lot can be forgiven with a win on Saturday.

    Go Rebels!

  5. Bowl chances are minimal at this point...so just beat Reno and the season will be somewhat of a success!

  6. REBELS...PACE YOURSELF IT'S A LONG GAME...Cut out personal penalties...catch the passes....Commit to 110% each play & assignments...love the game...if behind keep fighting--after all this is the UFC fighting capital of world...have the UFC intensity working in you but dont punch anybody...you've played tougher teams...you can win...fans want to see you fight all the way& not slack off...great things will happen make it a good game.

  7. UNR is 5-1 and beat California this year at Cal opening night of their new staduim. UNR only lost was by 1 point. They beat Boise State two years ago etc etc etc. UNR was giving 17 points to UNLV before the injury to UNR QB.

    Do you think Bobby Hauck will change anything within his defense and special teams? At this point I have not noticed any adjustment or new changes.

    Bobby Hauck who coaches special teams better change his punt team formation because what I watch againist LA Tech was really sad.

    Like losing to NAU and Southern Utah and New Mexico last year if UNLV gets blow out Saturday at home against UNR then we have no choice but demand that Hauck get fired.

    It's getting old to hear how we're getting better. Look at LA Tech Coach Sonny Dykes he is in his third year and is 5-0 and his style of coaching and play is exciting to watch. My goodness LA tech put up 622 yards of offense on UNLV. And Sherry could have been picked off at least 4 times where he threw the ball right at La Tech players he got lucky a lot of times the score could have been worst than it was.

    When is Bobby Hauck going to demand his Def staff to make changes and bring some heat on the QB and put the pressure on the offense. I do not like how our LB's play 7 yards from the ball and our DB's seem very leak.

    Hauck has had 3 years and the results in 5 Wins is poor performance. I guess what we are comfortable with is 3-4 wins a year. Is that our expectations and goals for our UNLV coach. If that's the expectations of Coach Hauck that pretty sad in my opinion. I would like to see some higher expectations and more accountability. Give Hauck a strong message you either start winning or your gone. Patience is running out.

    However I do see minor improvements but I don't think it's enought to say that Hauck can win 6-7 games year on a regular basis.

    Next Year I see two games out of the gates with a strong possibility of 0-2 at Minnesota and U of Arizon at home.

    Why are we scheduling Big Ten Openers and PAC 12? Probably easier to have excuses rather than losing to NAU or Southern Utah. Then is 2015 at Michigan for $1M. Maybe the AD should cancel those games and we need to start the season playing a Division 2 or 3 program to get some Wins. Play even lower divison schools than the Big Sky Conference because even those teams would give UNLV trouble like NAU did this year.

  8. I am hoping for the upset-seems like the rebels are getting better each week(not including secondary). But you know that Ault is the better game manager and despite some injuries on his side,he knows how to exploit weakneses on the opposing side in a way that Hauck is no equal. Enjoy watching Nick Sherry play and interested to see if Cornet can get another 100 yard game.

  9. Scarlet? Really? Isn't that the favorite color for womens' panties? The first step is for Nevada Southern to switch their colors to "blood red" or something similar. Scarlet brings images of Gone with the Wind . . . says it all.

  10. If you guys think LA Tech's RB put up some good numbers, they aren't even going to come close to what Jefferson is gonna do, especially with their starting QB injured and questionable for the game. Backup QB, hell, 2nd team would topple UNLV. I want more than anything for UNLV to win this game, but I'll guarantee Jefferson has a career night. Records may even be broken unless Ault takes him out of the game early.

  11. Rebel's are better this year just not Better than The Nevada Wolf Pack

  12. Taylor, is there anyway the UNLV vs UNR game will be televised locally? I see it will be shown on Time Warner Cable Sport Net which is not a local cable channel or cable provider?

  13. Any chance I will ever see the cannon painted red before I graduate

    *Shakes Magic 8-Ball*

    ...

  14. How can any of you people actually sit here and say the team in improving? HOW!?! Wake up people.... Stop living in fantasy land. The quicker UNLV makes the changes that need to be made the quicker things will turn around. UNLV is at the bottom of every list. Getting hard coming up with fresh jokes on how bad this team is! (On a side note, my future bet on the under for total wins is still looking great! Thanks 'Rebs!)