Twelve years later, Chris Ault doesn't seem as bothered. But at the time, he was steamed.
It was bad enough, he thought, that his UNR football team's five-game win streak against UNLV had ended. But the series' revered Fremont Cannon was badly damaged when Rebels fans rushed the field and celebrated with players at Sam Boyd Stadium.
"Unfortunately, I don't know if they understand the tradition," Ault told the Reno Gazette-Journal shortly after that game. "It's the sacred piece. It's the trophy. You don't break the trophy. You show it off."
On Tuesday, Ault laughed when asked about the incident and said: "I don't think back that far anymore. That's the last thing I think about - when they picked it up and dropped it."
Third-year UNLV coach Bobby Hauck doesn't have Ault's history with this game, but he knows enough to know he wants the trophy red and on his team's sideline next year.
Hauck and the Rebels (1-5, 1-0 Mountain West Conference) get the chance to win it back at noon Saturday when UNR (5-1, 2-0) visits.
A stereotype exists that the rivalry and, by extension, the cannon mean far more to those in Northern Nevada than those in Las Vegas. But as that night in 2000 showed, UNLV players and fans care deeply. They long for the cannon's return.
"We've got a cannon in the locker room that's painted blue, so we never forget," UNLV offensive tackle Yusef Rodgers said. "It's the big game. It's the granddaddy."
The cannon has been blue since 2005, when the Wolf Pack won 22-14 in Reno in then-UNLV coach Mike Sanford's first season. That began a seven-game series winning streak for UNR.
Since 1989, in fact, the Rebels have beaten their chief rivals just six times. One victory occurred in 1994 under Jeff Horton and the others from 2000 to 2004 under John Robinson.
"If it's a real rivalry, one of them's got to win it once in a while, being us," Hauck said. "We need to win this game. If we don't win it this year, then we've got to win it next year. We've got to get this thing turned in UNLV's favor."
He knows about playing for big trophies. As coach of Montana, Hauck went 5-2 against Montana State.
The Great Divide Trophy goes to the winner of that game. But, created in 2001, the 3-foot bronze trophy - a football rests upon a mountain - doesn't have the history of the Fremont Cannon.
UNLV and UNR began playing for the cannon in 1970, the second year in the rivalry's history. Valued at more than $10,000, it is college football's most valuable trophy as well as its largest.
"It's pretty special," Ault said, "and to our community and our university, it's very special."
■ NOTE - The Rebels are beaten up heading into this game. Linebacker Tim Hasson (arm), Rodgers (leg) and safety Peni Vea (arm) are listed as out. Also, offensive tackle Cameron Jefferson (leg) is doubtful, and offensive tackle Brett Boyko (leg) and wide receiver Marcus Sullivan (undisclosed) are questionable.
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.