RENO — The UNLV-UNR football rivalry has been marked by its share of tense moments, and Saturday’s postgame brawl was among the ugliest.
Seconds after UNLV wide receiver Steve Jenkins caught a 19-yard touchdown pass to give the Rebels a 33-30 overtime victory, he began running toward the Wolf Pack bench and appeared to taunt UNR players.
Rebels quarterback Kenyon Oblad, a Liberty High School graduate, appeared to say something to UNR safety Austin Arnold, who went to Bishop Gorman. Arnold then slammed Oblad to the turf, sparking a fight between the teams.
“We scored the last touchdown, and we’re all going crazy,” Oblad said. “I ran to the end zone to celebrate, and I got blindsided. Then the whole thing started.”
Chaos after UNLV’s win over UNR… pic.twitter.com/NgqJYjpjQQ
— Cassie Soto (@_CassieSoto) November 30, 2019
Most of the fighting occurred in front of the south end zone at Mackay Stadium, and UNLV tight end Noah Bean and UNR nose tackle Hausia Sekona wrestled in the snow bank near the bleachers. Fans from that end zone — known as the Zonies — began to toss objects onto the field, and a bright green soda bottle struck Review-Journal videographer Cassie Soto on her left ear. She was not seriously injured.
A Wolf Pack fan ripped the helmet off UNLV offensive lineman Jackson Reynolds.
Actions will be reviewed
Both athletic directors — UNLV’s Desiree Reed-Francois and UNR’s Doug Knuth — said in a joint statement that both schools are working with the Mountain West to examine the videos as well as cooperating with the UNR Police Department “to review the actions on the field and in the stands after the game.”
“The events that occurred following today’s football game have no place in college athletics, and we are deeply disappointed by this incident, which detracts from what was a hard-fought and emotional football game between our state’s only two NCAA programs,” the statement read.
“Rivalry games are at the heart of what should be great about intercollegiate athletics. We will continue to prioritize sportsmanship at all of our events, especially those between our two great institutions.”
History of ugly incidents
This wasn’t the first such incident between the schools.
The ugliest was in 1995 when the teams skirmished before and after the game in the return of former Wolf Pack coach Jeff Horton, who was then coaching the Rebels. UNLV safety Quincy Sanders threw his helmet near UNR coach Chris Ault.
UNLV coach John Robinson was hit near his head with a plastic water bottle in 2003. Two years earlier, Robinson ran up the score as a payback to UNR fans.
Tony Sanchez coached his final UNLV game Saturday, and he and Wolf Pack coach Jay Norvell pulled apart players from the brawl.
“Any time you’re going into that end of the end zone, there’s a chance that something bad will happen,” Sanchez said. “It’s really unfortunate. I hope it doesn’t take away from what our guys did (in the game). I’m really proud of what our guys did. It was a really dangerous situation.
“There’s no place in football for that. It won’t be my job to go talk to them. The next guy can talk to them about it, and I’m sure the coach over there (Norvell) will do the same thing.”
More Rebels: Follow at reviewjournal.com/Rebels