One half through the game the Wolf Pack was in danger of losing the cannon as UNLV scored on its first three possessions of the game as it built a 21-0 lead on the way to a 31-14 advantage at halftime. With 30 minutes standing between it and the rivalry trophy, UNLV could envision washing away seven years of blue paint with red.
Unfortunately for the Rebels, Nevada will be adding an eighth straight coat of blue to the Fremont Cannon after mounting a 17-point second half comeback en route to 42-37 victory on Saturday afternoon.
“Let me tell you something, that cannon ain’t red,” Nevada coach Chris Ault said. “It’s blue and silver.”
With things looking bleak after falling behind 31-14, the Pack came out inspired in the second half.
After allowing its rivals from down south to rack up 325 yards and 31 points in the first half, the Wolf Pack defense clamped down. The Pack D held UNLV to 121 yards in the second half, including just 31 yards on seven plays in the third quarter, en route just six Rebel points for the remainder of the game.
“It was the defense,” Ault said about the biggest difference in the second half. “That first half we didn’t stop them at any time. They had what they wanted. The defensive coaches did a great job of preparing those guys for the second half and really saying ‘Hey, enough is enough. Start playing some football.’ On the other side of the ball, we knew we could move the ball and felt comfortable, it was just a matter of putting points on the board.”
While the Nevada defense found its groove, the Wolf Pack offense found its rhythm.
After an exchange of possessions opened the third, Nevada made it into the end zone on a 12-yard pass from quarterback Devin Combs to wide receiver Richy Turner to cut the deficit to 31-21 with 4:31 left in the quarter.
Nevada then forced a UNLV (1-6, 1-1 Mountain West) punt which it then turned into more points on a 3-yard run by running back Stefphon Jefferson to bring the Wolf Pack within a score of the lead at 31-28 with just under 13 minutes remaining in the contest.
On the Rebels’ ensuing drive, the Silver and Blue defense came up big as Nevada’s Dray Bell jumped a route and stuck one hand into the air to snatch an interception, giving the Wolf Pack the ball at UNLV’s 34-yard line.
Capitalizing on the opportunity to seize the lead for the first time in the game, Combs hit tight end Zach Sudfeld for a 7-yard score, leaving the scoreboard reading 35-31 with 9:43 on the game clock.
Putting the game away, Nevada forced a punt before driving down to the UNLV goal line for a 2-yard TD spurt by Combs for a 42-31 lead with 2:12 to play.
Nevada (6-1, 3-0 MWC) will host San Diego State on Saturday with kickoff set for 7:35 p.m.