Nevada blanks UNLV; first shutout in state rivalry game
For the Nevada Appeal
RENO – The Nevada Wolf Pack’s defense wouldn’t let the UNLV Rebels get near the Fremont Cannon on Saturday let alone the end zone.
The Wolf Pack suffocated the Rebels’ offense in front of 28,109 fans at Mackay Stadium, blanking UNLV 37-0 for its seventh consecutive victory in the annual Battle for the Fremont Cannon. The shutout is the first in the 42-year history of the rivalry.
“Somebody told me that this is the first shutout in this rivalry,” Pack coach Chris Ault said. “I didn’t know that. That’s pretty special.”
Forget the pistol offense. It might be time for the Wolf Pack to come up with a cute little nickname for their defense.
“That was huge for our confidence,” defensive end Brett Roy said. “We needed that.”
The Pack has now won 22 of 37 overall against the Rebels since the rivalry began in 1969.
“I can’t even think of what that cannon looks like red,” said Roy who had 11 tackles, four for a loss, and one sack. “It’s tradition up here. They (UNLV) don’t know anything about tradition. But for us it’s our number one thing. We refuse to lose.”
At times, it seemed as if the Wolf Pack defense refused to give up even a yard to the Rebels. The Pack defense allowed UNLV’s offense just 110 total yards and seven first downs. Rebel quarterback Caleb Herring was 1-of-14 for eight yards and one interception.
“That was an outstanding defensive game,” said Ault, whose Wolf Pack improved to 2-3. “The front end, the back end, the middle, they were all outstanding.”
Ault is now 14-7 in the state rivalry as the Wolf Pack head coach.
“This is a big, big win for us,” Ault said.
The Pack head coach gave most of the credit to the defense.
“Our defense is our veteran group,” Ault said. “That’s where our most experienced players are. We said they would have to carry this team while our offense got up to speed. And that’s what has happened.”
Herring and the Rebels didn’t complete a pass until their final drive with just over four minutes to play in the game. The sophomore’s first 11 passes fell incomplete.
The Rebels offense had just four first downs and 48 total yards after three quarters. The shutout is the first for the Pack since it blanked Utah State and Louisiana Tech in back-to-back weeks in November 2006 by the identical score of 42-0.
“That was big,” said tackle Jack Reynoso, who had six tackles and two sacks. “It’s UNLV, our rival. Nobody’s ever had a shutout before in this rivalry. That was huge.”
The Rebels, now 1-4, were averaging 20 points and 304 yards a game before Saturday. But Herring and Rebels rarely tested the Pack defense. The closest the Rebels came to scoring was on a missed 42-yard field goal by Nolan Kohorst in the third quarter. Wolf Pack cornerback Isaiah Frey also picked off a Herring pass in the end zone on the Rebels’ second drive of the game.
“That was a difference-maker,” said Ault of Frey’s play on Herring’s pass from the Wolf Pack 13-yard line.
The reason the Rebels were just 13 yards away from the Pack end zone is because of the second of three turnovers by Pack starting quarterback Cody Fajardo. The red-shirt freshman, who was 11-of-15 for 93 yards on the day, was intercepted on the Pack’s first drive and he fumbled the ball away on the second drive. Frey’s interception, though, kept the game scoreless.
Tyler Lantrip, who had started the first four games, saved the day for the Pack offense. The senior completed 18-of-29 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns in relief of Fajardo.
Lantrip entered the game with the Wolf Pack leading 3-0 with 7:25 to play in the second quarter. His first play was a short pass to Richard Matthews on the right side that went for 90 yards and a touchdown. Matthews turned what is designed to be a short gain into one of the Pack’s biggest pass plays in school history.
Lantrip’s receiver also helped him out on his second touchdown pass. Lantrip, throwing from the UNLV 34-yard line on third down, hit a streaking Corbin Louks on a slant. Louks broke a tackle and scored to give the Pack a 17-0 lead 1:35 before halftime. It was Louks’ first touchdown in a Pack uniform and his first since he played for Utah in 2008.
“They (UNLV) were bringing a blitz and I knew once he (Louks) cleared the linebacker he’d be open,” Lantrip said. “He can fly.”
Lantrip closed out the scoring with two final touchdown drives in the fourth quarter. He connected with Shane Anderson on a 32-yard scoring pass early in the quarter for a 30-0 lead and he directed a nine-play, 83-yard drive that ended in a 4-yard touchdown run by Lampford Mark with 4:33 to play.
The Wolf Pack offense compiled some pretty impressive numbers despite turning the ball over five times on three interceptions and two fumbles. The Pack had 699 total yards, 459 through the air and 240 on the ground. Stefphon Jefferson rushed for an even 100 yards on 17 carries and Matthews caught 10 passes for 220 yards.
The 37-point difference between the two teams on Saturday is the biggest margin of victory in this rivalry since the Pack also won by 37 points (54-17) in 1996.
Lantrip gave much of the credit for the blowout victory to the Pack defense.
“They are the reason why we had our success,” Lantrip said. “They motivated everyone. They were out there making plays and it fired everyone up on the sidelines. They gave an energy boost to everyone.”
The Wolf Pack will host New Mexico this Saturday at Mackay Stadium (1:05 p.m. kickoff).