They met him at the door after one such game, their faces and attitude not what a dejected father had hoped to witness upon arriving home. But there was Bobby Hauck’s family, frowns abound, incorrigible in their disappointment.
“We had just lost the game on the road, and we didn’t lose many of them,” Hauck said. “They looked at me and said, ‘How could you lose to them! It was the first time I remember my children paying attention, so I knew it was a big deal.”
There is always this: At least the Hauck kids didn’t give Dad the middle finger as a young UNR football fan once offered UNLV as it was departing the field following an in-state rivalry game.
“Maybe they did when I turned my back,” Hauck said. “Expect nothing less. If the 9-year olds aren’t giving you The Bird, it must not be a rivalry game.”
Those cold shoulders at the door occurred when Hauck was coaching Montana in a season the Grizzlies fell to the Montana State Bobcats, a rivalry that dates to 1897 and awards the annual winner the Great Divide Trophy.
“I grew up around that one, being a third generation guy (at Montana),” Hauck said. “When I was going to school there, I had 17 cousins also there at the same time. A couple others, whose names we don’t mention in polite company, went to the other school in the state. There is nothing better than winning your rivalry game and nothing worse than losing it. For the most part, people are emotional leading up to it and sane after, but there was always stuff bordering on crazy and out-of-line in that one.
“I hope the enjoyment of a rivalry game has carried over with us (to UNLV). We haven’t won this game since coming here, but there is nothing like the preparation for it. Our guys are really into it. I hope it’s loud. I hope it’s hostile. I hope our guys feed off that.”
The loud and hostile part won’t be a problem.
UNLV continues its pursuit of a postseason bowl berth today, the next step its rivalry game against the Wolf Pack at Mackay Stadium.
Kickoff is set for 3 p.m.
It will get wild and crazy well before then.
UNR has won eight straight in the series, meaning the Fremont Cannon is a darker shade of blue than any performer in a certain theatrical show at the Monte Carlo. The Wolf Pack are a below-average 3-4 this season and yet still a near-touchdown favorite today, because when you have beaten your rival as soundly as UNR has the Rebels for so long, oddsmakers and fans alike adopt a believe-it-when-they-see-it outlook in regards to the underdog.
“At a young age, I was taught not to put my hands on things that don’t belong to me,” UNLV senior defensive lineman Tyler Gaston said when asked if he has touched the cannon. “So until it belongs to me, and belongs to this team, then we won’t worry about it.”
Hauck has lost three straight to UNR by an average score of 41-21, with only last season’s 42-37 defeat here as one where the outcome was still in doubt once the fourth quarter arrived. But this is the best UNLV has been under him in four seasons and there is little doubt UNR doesn’t own the sort of all-around skill it has in recent times.
Hauck has coached in several rivalries. UNLV-UNR. Washington-Washington State. Washington-Oregon. USC-UCLA. Colorado-Nebraska.
But none for him compare to Montana-Montana State. He would wager $1 on the outcome with his teacher as a second-grader, even then devoted like no other to the Griz and those maroon and silver jerseys.
It was his life. His obsession.
“I was definitely accused at times of being way too into that particular game,” Hauck said. “But when you have all those memories, it becomes very personal. I’m sure it’s that way for people who grew up in this state with UNLV and Reno.
“If I have to open my mouth one time this week, I have the wrong guys in the locker room and I have the right guys. Good college football rivalries are awesome. It’s a hate-hate situation. That’s how it’s supposed to be. Football isn’t life-or-death but sometimes it’s approached that way. That’s one of the beauties of this. We’re excited. I hope our guys enjoy the heck out of this.”
What he hopes for is plenty of red paint being sprayed over a certain cannon and not to be greeted at the door by an upset family.
But know this: If there are any 9-year-olds flipping off Hauck after the game, it was probably a good day for the Rebels.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at email@example.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on “Gridlock,” ESPN 1100 and 98.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.