Wolf Pack vs. Rebels Saturday night

Nevada and UNLV will meet Saturday night in the 29th edition of what is one of those truly special rivalries in college football.

There's no need for pep talks because the Fremont Cannon, not to mention bragging rights for the state of Nevada, will be at stake when the Wolf Pack and Rebels collide at 7:05 p.m. at Mackay Stadium.

"I think rivalries are the most fun in college sports," UNLV coach John Robinson told The Associated Press.

"It's a big game," said Nevada coach Chris Tormey, who is 0-3 against UNLV. "Big games are always fun."

And yes, the game will showcase two teams that are off to 3-1 starts this season.

Nevada has been involved in four games decided by a total of 24 points, including wins at home against Southern Utah (24-23) and SMU (12-9) that remained in doubt until the end. The Wolf Pack's lone loss came at Oregon (31-23).

UNLV, 3-1 for the first time since 1992 and listed 35th this week in the USA Today/ESPN rankings, is coming off a bye week and is riding a two-game win streak after defeating then No. 14 Wisconsin 23-5 and Hawaii 33-22.

The two teams feature some similarities.

For example, both have capitalized on defensive takeaways this season. The Wolf Pack scored 12 unanswered points in the second half to defeat SMU last Saturday night in Reno, with all of those points coming as a direct result of turnovers -- including Logan Carter's 40-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter. The Rebels converted eight turnovers into 30 points in their wins over Wisconsin and Hawaii.

Both teams feature widely recognized defensive players. Nevada defensive end Jorge Cordova was the Western Athletic Conference preseason pick for defensive player of the year. UNLV junior strong safety Jamaal Brimmer, a preseason All-American, had 11 tackles, two sacks, returned a fumble for a score and set up two touchdowns with interceptions in the win over Wisconsin.

On the offensive side, both teams feature widely recognized running backs. Nevada junior tailback Chance Kretschmer (6-1, 226) has rushed for 511 yards this season (127.8 yard per game average), tops in the WAC, and led the nation as a freshman in 2001 with 1,732 yards. UNLV, which has had backs turn in 100-yard performances in 31 of the team's last 38 games, counters with its combo of Larry Croom (5-10, 205) and Dominique Dorsey (5-6, 165). Croom is the regular -- he caught two touchdown passes in UNLV's 21-17 win over Nevada last year in Las Vegas -- but strained his right thigh in a loss to Kansas on Sept. 6. He was replaced by Dorsey, who rushed for 111 yards against Hawaii and 100 yards against Wisconsin.

Of interest, there will be a rivalry-within-the-rivalry between Dorsey and Nevada wide receiver Nichiren Flowers, who leads the Wolf Pack in receiving with 17 catches for 179 yards and two touchdowns. Both were high school teammates in central California at Tulare Union on a 2000 section championship team that went 11-2. Dorsey rushed for 69 yards on 12 carries and Flowers caught three passes for 59 yards in UNLV's win over Nevada last year.

Flowers is looking forward to the rematch.

"It's great, it will be like a reunion," the 6-foot-3, 202-pound sophomore said. "We played against each other last year, but didn't play as much as we would have liked. It will be different this year because we both will be on the field a lot and we'll get to see what we can do."

This being a battle between rivals, security will be beefed up on Saturday night.

"There'll be a lot of emotion," Tormey added. "Hopefully, fans on both sides can keep level heads and stay sober. There have been some bums in the stands the last couple of years in both stadiums."

Notes ... Nevada leads 15-13 in the rivalry, which dates to 1969. The Wolf Pack's last win came by a 26-12 score in 1999 at Mackay Stadium. ... Nevada wide receiver Maurice Mann, who missed the first four games due to a suspension for violating an NCAA rule, is eligible to return for this game. ... Carter, the WAC defensive player of the week for his performance against SMU, expressed the importance of the silver state rivalry in a preseason interview: "There's three things on my head: WAC championships, UNLV and playing in a bowl game."


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