Updated October 28, 2020 - 5:55 pm
Chances to make history don’t come around often, but there will be plenty of opportunities Saturday when UNLV hosts UNR.
For starters, it will be the first game for the Rebels at Allegiant Stadium. It also will be the first time fans will be allowed in the stadium, with attendance in the 65,000-seat stadium limited to 2,000 because of coronavirus protocols. The Raiders have played their first three games in the stadium without fans.
— Allegiant Stadium (@AllegiantStadm) October 27, 2020
And there’s no better way to christen a new era than by UNLV playing its in-state rival in the Battle for the Fremont Cannon — with the state’s only two college football teams meeting for the first time on Nevada Day, the anniversary of the Silver State’s admission to the Union on Oct. 31, 1864.
“It’s very exciting,” UNLV running back Charles Williams said. “It’s a $2 billion stadium, and we want to protect the name on the front (of our jerseys) and show out for our family that can be there. It’s going to be a great atmosphere.”
The Fremont Cannon is a replica of the howitzer that explorer John C. Fremont took with him on his expedition through Nevada, California and Oregon in the mid-19th century. At 545 pounds, it’s the largest trophy for a rivalry game in college football.
The cannon also has the added element of changing color depending on which team wins the game. If the Rebels win, they paint it red. If UNR wins, the cannon becomes blue.
UNR leads the series 26-19, but the Rebels have won four of the past seven and kept the cannon red for two straight seasons for the first time since doing so for five in a row from 2000 to 2004.
This will be UNLV coach Marcus Arroyo’s first foray into the rivalry. He follows Tony Sanchez, who was 20-40 in five years at the school but 3-2 against UNR.
The Rebels rallied from a 23-0 deficit in 2018 for a 34-29 win in Las Vegas to reclaim the cannon and secure their first home win in the series since 2004.
Last season, UNLV let a 17-point lead get away before quarterback Kenyon Oblad and Steve Jenkins connected on a 19-yard touchdown in overtime for a 33-30 victory in Reno. The win was marred by an ugly incident involving players and fans after the game that led to suspensions for both teams.
Neither team wants a repeat of that, and Williams hopes to avoid a similar scene to what he saw after his freshman year in 2016, when UNR drubbed the Rebels 45-10 at Sam Boyd Stadium.
“They just blew us out of the water, and watching them pull the cannon out and spray painting it blue on our field was so disrespectful,” Williams said. “I just knew this was a serious game because whoever pulls that cannon out, it’s a special moment for them.”
One thing that will be different is the timing of the game. Throughout most of the series’ history, it had been played in September or early October, but was moved to late November each of the past four seasons.
That allowed for a natural crescendo throughout the year to that final climactic game. Saturday’s game will be the second for both teams.
“It’s a really important game because a community and city and program, regardless of where you are in the country, there’s a lot of pride in (a rivalry) game,” Arroyo said. “But there’s an inherent danger in hanging everything on it. You don’t ever want to downplay the game, but you don’t want to hang the entire season on it, either.”
UNLV vs. UNR series
UNR leads 26-19
Date Location Score
Nov. 22, 1969 Reno UNR 30-28
Nov. 26, 1970 Las Vegas UNLV 42-30
Nov. 20, 1971 Reno UNLV 24-13
Nov. 18, 1972 Las Vegas UNR 41-13
Nov. 17, 1973 Reno UNR 19-3
Nov. 16, 1974 Las Vegas UNLV 28-7
Nov. 22, 1975 Reno UNLV 45-7
Nov. 20, 1976 Las Vegas UNLV 49-33
Nov. 19, 1977 Reno UNLV 27-12
Sept. 16, 1978 Las Vegas UNR 23-14
Sept. 15, 1979 Reno UNLV 26-21
Sept. 3, 1983 Las Vegas UNLV 28-18
Nov. 16, 1985 Reno UNR 48-7
Oct. 3, 1987 Las Vegas UNLV 24-19
Nov. 11, 1989 Reno UNR 45-7
Nov. 20, 1990 Las Vegas UNR 26-14
Sept. 7, 1991 Reno UNR 50-8
Oct. 17, 1992 Las Vegas UNR 14-10
Oct. 23, 1993 Reno UNR 49-14
Nov. 19, 1994 Las Vegas UNLV 32-27
Oct. 28, 1995 Reno UNR 55-32
Oct. 5, 1996 Las Vegas UNR 54-17
Sept. 6, 1997 Reno UNR 31-14
Oct. 3, 1998 Las Vegas UNR 31-20
Oct. 2, 1999 Reno UNR 26-12
Oct. 7, 2000 Las Vegas UNLV 38-7
Oct. 6, 2001 Reno UNLV 27-12
Oct. 5, 2002 Las Vegas UNLV 21-17
Oct. 2, 2003 Reno UNLV 16-12
Oct. 2, 2004 Las Vegas UNLV 48-13
Sept. 17, 2005 Reno UNR 22-14
Sept. 30, 2006 Las Vegas UNR 31-3
Sept. 29, 2007 Reno UNR 27-20
Sept. 27, 2008 Las Vegas UNR 49-27
Oct. 3, 2009 Reno UNR 63-28
Oct. 2, 2010 Las Vegas UNR 44-26
Oct. 8, 2011 Reno UNR 37-0
Oct. 13, 2012 Las Vegas UNR 42-37
Oct. 26, 2013 Reno UNLV 27-22
Nov. 29, 2014 Las Vegas UNR 49-27
Oct. 3, 2015 Reno UNLV 23-17
Nov. 26, 2016 Las Vegas UNR 45-10
Nov. 25, 2017 Reno UNR 23-16
Nov. 24, 2018 Las Vegas UNLV 34-29
Nov. 30, 2019 Reno UNLV 33-30 (OT)