The Battle for the Fremont Cannon will take place this Saturday at Mackay Stadium. The cannon is currently painted red after UNLV won last year’s matchup 27-22. It’s not likely Nevada will repaint it blue, but wild things happen in this rivalry.
Both programs are on opposite ends of the standings. The Rebels come into this matchup 4-1 overall and 1-0 in the conference. They picked up a 44-20 victory against Hawaii last week and are on a nice three-game win streak.
Meanwhile, for Nevada, I continue to sound like a broken record when mentioning its losing streak. It’s up to 15 games now, which is still the longest in the nation.
Whether the Fremont Cannon stays red or goes back to blue, there’s plenty for both teams to prepare for (but let’s hope it goes back to blue ;))
UNLV (4-1) @ Nevada (0-5)
Location: Mackay Stadium
Date/Time: Saturday, October 14 at 2 p.m. PST
Broadcast: Nevada Sports Net
Betting Line: UNLV by 9.5 points. The over/under is 53.5
History: This will be the 49th time the two programs have faced, dating back to 1969. The historic Silver State rivalry is still owned by the Wolf Pack, as they lead the series 28-20.
Keys to the Game
- The passing game has to open up
The passing game for Nevada has been pretty nonexistent all season. It’s averaging 186 passing yards per game with only two passing touchdowns so far. Brendon Lewis had his worst start of the season against Fresno State, passing for only 70 yards with two interceptions.
There’s plenty of talent in the wide receiver room. Yet, the numbers make it seem there’s no confidence in the passing game. Only one wide receiver has gone over 100 receiving yards, which came in Week 1 against USC, courtesy of Jamaal Bell with 121.
It’ll become even more important now after the news of Nevada running back Ashton Hayes. He suffered a leg injury against Texas State, and Ken Wilson wasn’t confident Hayes would be able to return this season. That leaves Sean Dollars to manage the backfield, opening up the importance of a passing game.
In all of the Rebels wins so far, they’ve scored 40 or more points. Nevada isn’t going to keep up with that unless Lewis (or AJ Bianco) starts slinging it.
2. Attack the Rebels’ defense
Nevada’s offense has been the weak link this season. It won’t be much easier with the Rebels defense, which has been performing very well. They’ve collected seven interceptions and four fumble recoveries, ranking fifth best in the nation. Nevada has had issues with throwing picks and holding onto the football, so playing a clean game is the best shot.
The Wolf Pack will see a bit of a break, however. UNLV defensive back Jerrae Williams is out against Nevada after he underwent foot surgery. The star cornerback has collected 19 tackles in four games, an interception, a pass breakup, and a fumble recovery that he returned 41 yards for a touchdown against Vanderbilt. With Nevada’s passing game (hopefully) getting more work, it’ll be a huge break not having to see Williams on the field.
The Williams injury has led UNLV head coach Barry Odom to constantly rotate his defensive backs. If Nevada can exploit that early, this game will go down to the wire.
3. UNLV’s redshirt freshman QB isn’t playing around
Despite their Week 3 win over Vanderbilt, the Rebels were hit hard when they lost starting quarterback Doug Brumfield to an injury. Freshman Jayden Maiava finished off that came, and led UNLV from a 17-0 deficit to a 40-37 win. Maiava is leading this three-game winning streak, and UNLV’s past two games have shown he’s no joke.
He threw for 142 yards and two touchdown passes in the win over Hawaii. In the three games he’s played, Maiava has thrown 701 yards, three touchdowns, and two touchdowns with a 57 percent completion percentage.
Just like Lewis, Maiava can use his legs. He’s picked up 115 rushing yards on 21 attempts. He’s doing what Lewis should be doing, and it’s what will need to happen to beat UNLV.
Yes, UNLV is favored. When it comes to the Fremont Cannon, I have to put my faith in the Wolf Pack. Tensions are much higher, and winning this game means a lot to these players. Nevada is going to come in just as hungry, and the offense will wake up because of it.
I’m going with a 35-34 victory for Nevada. With how Nevada’s defense has been carrying so far, it’s time for the offense to wake up. Both these programs have very good special teams, so I see it coming down to a final field goal.
Win or lose, it’s going to be havoc in Reno this weekend. Be safe, have fun, and most importantly, paint the Fremont Cannon Blue.