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As rivalry trophies go, Cannon is king

Because Saturday will be his first UNLV-UNR rodeo, Rebels coach Bobby Hauck admittedly doesn’t know a lot about it. Sure, he has “heard” a lot about the Fremont Cannon, mostly because it’s been a while — six years, to be exact — since anybody around here has “seen” it after the game.

Somebody ought to send Mike Sanford (0-5 against the Wolf Pack) a picture.

“I know it’s the (most expensive/heaviest) trophy in college football,” Hauck said of the $10,000, 545-pound replica of the howitzer that John C. Fremont, the explorer and first Republican presidential candidate, dumped in a snowdrift in the Sierra Nevada during a 19th-century expedition, because it was getting too heavy to pull with frostbit fingers.

“And it’s better than a skillet.”

Hauck was referring to the trophy that Texas Christian earned by beating Metroplex rival Southern Methodist on TV on Friday. Though he was joking, Hauck quickly backtracked from the remark, cognizant that UNLV (1-3) will host the fifth-ranked Horned Frogs on Halloween weekend. The last thing a young and outmatched Rebels team needs is Andy Dalton and that bunch using the iron skillet to crack them upside the head.

Instead of starting his Monday news conference by rehashing Saturday’s 45-10 victory over a New Mexico team that was declared clinically dead with eight minutes left in the second quarter, Hauck talked about some of the more intense rivalries he has experienced as a coach, and one as a player.

These would include the tawdry annual boot-stomper between Montana and Montana State, Washington vs. Washington State, Colorado vs. Nebraska, UCLA vs. Southern California and Northern Arizona vs. a Warm Day in Flagstaff.

Those two have never seemed to get along.

Montana, where Hauck was 80-17 during seven seasons in the Frozen Tundra Conference, also used to play Idaho for the Little Brown Stein. Although Hauck’s name is on it, he didn’t mention the Little Brown Stein. It might have been because the Griz and Vandals haven’t played since 2003, his first year as head coach at Montana. Or it might have been because why would you mention it?

So I had no recourse but to bring up the heated rivalry between the Sweet Grass County Sheepherders and Harlowton. You can throw the records out the window when those two meet, and considering they meet in Montana, you might never see the records again, particularly if the wind is blowing.

I didn’t know that Sweet Grass County’s rival was Harlowton. I figured it had to have “Lodge,” “River” or “Creek” as part of its name, like most high schools in Montana.

“The Harlowton game was heated every year. It was huge,” Hauck said, with tongue planted firmly in cheek. “The Harlowton Indians (now the Harlowton Engineers) … do you know how long ago that was?”

Not so long ago that Hauck, who played quarterback for a Sheepherders team coached by Bob Hauck Sr., had forgotten he went 3-1 against Harlowton in the Battle for the Bronze Ewe.

(Disclosure: I made up the part about the Bronze Ewe. But you have to admit, even a Bronze Ewe would make a better trophy than an iron skillet.)

The point is without rivalry games, without the Little Brown Jug (Michigan vs. Minnesota), Red River Rivalry (Texas vs. Oklahoma), Iron Bowl (Alabama vs. Auburn), Old Oaken Bucket (Indiana vs. Purdue), Beehive Boot (BYU vs. Utah), The Big Game (California vs. Stanford), Floyd of Rosedale (Iowa vs. Minnesota) and the Battle for the Milk Can (Boise State vs. Fresno State) — OK, maybe not the Battle for the Milk Can — college football would be little more than a less-talented facsimile of the NFL, only with one foot in bounds, cheerleaders with slightly more clothes, used car salesmen posing as boosters and Erin Andrews.

“Anytime you’re involved in college football and you don’t have a heated rivalry game, than you are missing out on a big part of the experience,” Hauck said, and I couldn’t agree more. 

Take away rivalries from college football, and Touchdown Jesus might have to settle for a field goal.

Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352.

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