Fremont Cannon at stake in rivalry |

Fremont Cannon at stake in rivalry

Appeal Sports Writer

RENO – Cal and Stanford play for an ax. Washington and Washington State play for the Apple Cup. Arkansas and LSU collide for the Golden Boot.

Small trophies compared to what’s on the line when Nevada-UNLV battle each year.

The state rivals, who meet Saturday at 1:05 p.m. at Mackay Stadium, battle for the prestigious 425-pound Fremont Cannon, which is the biggest trophy in Division 1-A football.

The cannon is a replica of a howitzer that accompanied Cat. John C. Fremont on his expedition through Oregon, Nevada and California in 1843 and 1844. The replica was reconstructed in 1970 by the Nevada Mines Division of Kennecott Copper Construction, and was built from drawings from the military archives of the United States Army.

The cannon is under lock and key in the Cashell Fieldhouse, and it’s resided in Reno for the past two seasons. Obviously the Pack players and coaching staff would like nothing more than to keep it in their fieldhouse for another season.

“No question it’s a huge game,” Nevada coach Chris Ault said. “There is a lot of great tradition surrounding this game.

“I talk to the players. We talk about the good and the bad.”

This is a game that transcends any other on the schedule. No matter the records, coming in it’s a game that either team can win. That’s what rivalry games are all about, and that’s why this is like a bowl game for both teams.

“It’s kind of neat playing for something like that compared to other schools that are playing for an ax,” Nevada senior nose tackle Matt Hines said. “It was a great feeling the last two years. I want to go out with a win. I don’t want to be the senior class that loses to them.

“The intensity is really picked up during practice.”

It’s a week where tempers can sometimes get short as it gets closer to game time.

More intense than playing nationally ranked Nebraska?

“Definitely,” Hines said. “We’re trying to keep something we’ve got.”

Every year Ault educates his team on the importance of the rivalry, according to junior linebacker Kevin Porter.

“This is big no matter how either team is playing,” Porter said. “I think coach Ault does a great job of talking to us about the importance of the rivalry to the team, the school and the community.

“There are a lot of people outside the state that have never heard about it (the rivalry and Fremont Cannon). It gives a great opportunity to show how important the cannon is to the school and the state.”

Ault has been calling it the first championship game of the season since the Pack had a bye after its 52-17 whipping of Division 1-AA Nicholls State, and his players obviously have picked up on it.

“It’s championship week for us,” running back Luke Lippincott said. “Being off two weeks makes it like a mini bowl game.

“I knew about it (the cannon) before I came to Nevada that this was the biggest trophy. I already thought it was a big deal. When I came here, it was coach Ault’s first year back. This is the week we need to step it up another level so we can keep the cannon here. The players fed off coach Ault.”

Hines has been around the rivalry for eight years. His older brother, Chris played guard for the Pack for four years, but Matt Hines said it was guys like Jorge Cordova, Derek Kennard Jr. and Carl LaGrone that really initiated him to the rivalry during his freshman season.

“Derek would yell at students if he saw them wear red the week of the game,” Hines said, laughing at the memory. “You never wear red if you are a player.”

One can only imagine the sight of Kennard Jr., who weighed around 280 hollering or maybe even chasing his fellow students if he caught a glimpse of red. It’s possible he might have scared a timid freshman or two.

Hines said that coaches have sent players away if they show up wearing red. That’s to be expected. After all, this is UNLV week.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re having a good season or bad season,” center Dominic Green said. ” You just don’t know who is going to win. There is so much riding on it. It’s bragging rights in the state.”

And ownership of the cannon.

Notes: A total of 27,000 tickets had been sold as of Thursday at 4 p.m., and all the general admission tickets have been sold. There are limited reserved seats left at $30 per or $35 day of game… Finally, because of the high tickets sales for this game, those who are picking up their tickets from Will Call are strongly encouraged to do so early. The Will Call booth is at the Legacy Hall ticket office, which is open 10-5 today, and will open at 10 a.m. on Saturday.