Bobby Hauck timed the announcement that he was resigning as UNLV’s football coach for the day before his Rebels played UNR for the Fremont Cannon.
Hauck had known all week he was leaving, but he thought by telling his team on Friday and then going public it might fire up the Rebels against their most intense rival.
And for most of a half, the Rebels played like the better team.
Then the actual better team took charge.
UNR rode momentum from late in the first half all the way to the end, posting a 49-27 victory over UNLV on Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium.
It was a tough way to go out, not only for Hauck but also for seniors such as Devante Davis, who established himself as one of the Rebels’ top receivers of all time.
“It was definitely tough walking off the field knowing it was my last Rebel game,” Davis said. “This team and this coaching staff gave me a shot out of high school, and no one else wanted me, so just walking off the field was hard. There’s nothing we can do about that now. I hated it had to be Reno and that they had to get the cannon.
“I loved the four years that I spent here. I had a great time. I grew up from a smart-mouth young kid who made bad decisions at times to a man who understands what’s right and wrong.”
The Wolf Pack (7-5, 4-4 Mountain West) take the cannon back after sending it south for a year. UNR will soon paint it blue, the color of the cannon for eight years before last season’s UNLV victory in Reno.
Just a season after UNLV appeared in the Heart of Dallas Bowl to end a 13-year postseason drought, the Rebels (2-11, 1-7) finished with two victories for the eighth time in 11 seasons. Hauck oversaw four of those two-win seasons.
“We haven’t been good enough, but we play our tails off and we’re physical,” Hauck said. “I can appreciate our guys. I wish our record was better, obviously.”
He leaves UNLV after five seasons and a 15-49 record. Certainly not the 80-17 mark he had at Montana, where it is rumored he is heading back to coach after Mick Delaney announced two weeks ago he would retire after the season.
“I swear to you, all I’ve been thinking about is Reno,” Hauck said. “I have not even thought about what’s next.”
UNLV can now turn its full attention to the search to replace Hauck, and university president Don Snyder said at halftime he hoped the next hire would be made quickly. He wouldn’t comment about specific candidates or address whether the Fertitta family would play a prominent role in the process.
But he echoed what athletic director Tina Kunzer-Murphy said Friday about the importance of improving the program as a whole and not simply hiring the next coach.
“I think the culture does need to change,” Snyder said. “We’ve had some good coaches here that have won before they got here and won after they left here. I think that speaks to the fact we have to do something different. It’s not a coaching thing.”
Shortly after Snyder met the media, the coaching staffs for both teams entered the press box before the second half. UNLV running backs coach Dominic Daste shouted expletives at the Wolf Pack assistants, probably upset over UNR defensive tackle Rykeem Yates injuring Rebels guard Brett Boyko in the first quarter.
Officials ejected Yates, who caused Boyko to miss the rest of the first half. Boyko returned in the second half.
“The guy tried a UFC armbar on me,” said Boyko, wearing a brace on his left arm. “He tried to break my arm. The cheapest play I’ve ever seen. Be a man and punch me in the face if you want to mess around. I couldn’t believe that.”
UNR coach Brian Polian also was upset at Yates and was not happy the Wolf Pack were penalized 11 times for 87 yards compared with three for 35 yards for the Rebels.
“The officiating was horrible,” Polian said. “It’s fine. I’ve felt that way the whole year. The disparity in the fouls tonight, somebody needs to explain to me how that’s possible in a Division I-A football game. I think it’s a selfish play (by Yates), and we coach against that. I said eight times between this morning and arriving at the stadium to keep your poise. Don’t put your ego in front of the team.”
UNLV gave UNR its best shot early, taking a 17-7 lead in the second quarter behind two touchdown passes from Blake Decker.
But then the Wolf Pack scored with 1:31 left in the first half on Cody Fajardo’s 18-yard touchdown pass to Richy Turner to bring them within 17-14.
UNR got the ball to open the second half and went 87 yards on 11 plays, with Fajardo connecting with Jerico Richardson for a 12-yard touchdown and 21-17 lead.
The Wolf Pack didn’t trail again, taking full control on defensive end Lenny Jones’ 32-yard interception return for a 35-20 lead with 4:15 left in the third quarter.
That was one of three interceptions from Decker. The other two were thrown into the end zone, wiping out two excellent scoring opportunities. After opening 12 of 15 for 120 yards, Decker then went 9 of 24 for 51 yards.
“The big thing, obviously, is the turnovers,” Hauck said. “Four turnovers when you’re up against it in a rivalry game, it’s not going to go well when you do that. The team that gets the takeaways is going to win the game, and they did that.”
Shaquille Murray-Lawrence had a big game on the ground for the Rebels, rushing for 135 yards on 21 carries. It was his third 100-yard performance in the past five games.
On the other side, Fajardo passed for three touchdowns, but completed only 5 of 13 passes for 46 yards. He was more dangerous running the ball, gaining 143 yards and a touchdown on 13 attempts.
Teammate Don Jackson added 132 yards on 22 carries, and James Butler had 116 yards on 11 attempts.
It’s the first time UNR has had three 100-yard rushers in a game since Nov. 6, 2010, against Idaho, and the Wolf Pack totaled 408 yards on the ground against UNLV.
Fajardo tweeted in July that the cannon was going to turn blue. He was right.
And now UNLV’s program finds itself at a time of uncertainty.
Someone else will be in charge of the Rebels next season.
As for UNLVs seniors, they go out with their coach.
“He taught me a lot, not just football but how to be a man and carry myself,” an emotional Davis said. “There’s no better coach, there’s no better person for this job.”
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at email@example.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.
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