RENO - Zach Sudfeld remembers the first time he saw the Fremont Cannon.
"It was on my recruiting trip," the Nevada Wolf Pack tight end said of his first visit to campus back in the winter of 2006-07. "When you come here on your recruiting trip, one of the first things they show you is the cannon. I just thought to myself, 'That is so cool. What a cool rivalry trophy.'"
When Sudfeld, now a sixth-year senior, saw the largest (over 500 pounds) trophy in college football for the first time, it was painted Wolf Pack silver and blue and was sitting in the hallway at Cashell Fieldhouse. Well, it is still blue. And it still calls Cashell Fieldhouse home.
"I've been lucky," senior offensive tackle Jeff Nady said. "The cannon was here when I got here (in 2008) and it's still here and now I'm a senior. When I got here the seniors back then also had it here their entire careers. As far as I'm concerned the cannon will always stay blue. It's the only way I want it and it's the only way I've ever seen it."
The Wolf Pack will take a seven-game winning streak in the Battle for the Fremont Cannon into the 38th revival of the Silver State rivalry today (noon kickoff) at UNLV's Sam Boyd Stadium.
"We're going to keep the cannon blue," Wolf Pack linebacker DeAndre Boughton said. "We can feel the community behind us and I'm just so happy to be a part of this rivalry game. It's like another fire that gets us going and we're going to come out ready to fight."
The Wolf Pack (5-1 overall and 2-0 in the Mountain West) has done most of the fighting lately in the 43-year-old rivalry. The Pack owns a 22-15 edge in the annual game and has outscored UNLV, 273-118, during its current seven-game winning streak against the Rebels.
Forget Battle Born. UNLV is clearly Battle Weary when it comes to the Battle for the Fremont Cannon.
The Wolf Pack hasn't lost to the Rebels since UNLV scored 42 consecutive points in a 48-13 victory in 2004. Since 2005 and since the Wolf Pack implemented its revolutionary pistol offense in 2005, the Pack has gone 7-0 against UNLV. The past four years (2008-11) the Pack has averaged 652 total yards (404 rushing) and 48 points a game against the Rebels.
But despite all of the gaudy offensive numbers against UNLV in recent years, the Wolf Pack's current roster doesn't have a single player that has either scored a touchdown or thrown one against UNLV in their careers. The only current Wolf Pack player who has ever scored a point against UNLV is kicker Allen Hardison, who scored 13 points against the Rebels last year on three field goals and four extra points in a 37-0 Pack victory.
So the Pack, which has won 17 of its last 23 games against UNLV, will have a lot of players down in Las Vegas this weekend hoping to make their mark in the rivalry.
"Every week we always say the next game we play is the biggest one of the year," Sudfeld said. "But this game is always a little bit bigger than the rest."
"Before every year fans will come up to me and ask, 'How are you guys looking this year?,'" Nady said. "And then they tell me, 'Just make sure you beat UNLV.' I grew up (in Gardnerville) learning about this game. I always wanted to be a part of it."
Wolf Pack coach Chris Ault is 14-7 in his career against UNLV (he started 1-4) and has won eight of his last nine rivalry games.
"This is always a big week for us," Ault said. "This game is always intense as far as I'm concerned."
The game has added importance this year since both teams are in the Mountain West together for the first time. The two schools were in the Big West Conference together from 1992-95 and the Pack won three of the four games.
"At the beginning of every season, when we establish our goals, it's always there," senior linebacker Albert Rosette said. "Our goals are to be conference champions, go to a bowl game and to beat UNLV. So you know right away this is a big game.
"When you come in here as a freshman, you know right away this game is a little different from all the rest. Coach Ault will talk to us about the history of the game. And every year, when you see the schedule, you mark this game on the calendar. You always know when it's coming."
The Wolf Pack dominated last year's game like no other in the rivalry. The Pack earned the first shutout in the rivalry, winning 37-0 at Mackay Stadium.
UNLV quarterback Caleb Herring completed just one of his 14 passes for eight yards.
The Wolf Pack, though, expects a different UNLV offense to step out on the Sam Boyd Stadium turf on Saturday. The Rebels are just 1-5 this year (1-0 in the Mountain West) but freshman quarterback Nick Sherry has already established himself as one of the top quarterbacks in the conference. The 6-foot-5, 235-pounder from Petaluma, Calif., has passed for 1,528 yards and 10 touchdowns this year. Herring now spends most of his time at wide receiver (eight catches).
"UNLV's offense has certainly done a nice job," Ault said. "This is the best team they've had since Bobby's been there."
Bobby Hauck is now just 5-26 in his third season as the Rebels coach. He could be coaching for his job next season against the Wolf Pack on Saturday.
"They've had a lot of coaching changes down there," said Ault, himself a former UNLV assistant coach (1973-75) at UNLV under head coach Ron Meyer. "But you can see now that they are starting to get some stability in their program."
The Rebels, who beat Air Force 38-35 on Sept. 22, also have a strong running game with Tim Cornett (618 yards, four touchdowns) and Bradley Randle (289 yards, four touchdowns). Sherry's top targets are Marcus Sullivan (31 catches, 432 yards) and Devante Davis (29 catches, 405 yards).
"In a rivalry game anything can happen," Rosette said. "And even though we've won some games against them lately, it doesn't get any easier. It gets harder. We know they are going to bring their A game against us."
The Wolf Pack, which hasn't lost in over a month (32-31 to South Florida on Sept. 8), is 9-9 against the Rebels in Las Vegas.
"I've been here six years," said Sudfeld, who is still looking for his first catch against UNLV. "I've only seen the cannon silver and blue. We're going to do everything we can to keep it those colors."