Story and Photos by Mike Smyth
The Nevada Wolf Pack scored on their first four possessions in the annual battle for the Fremont Cannon, defeating the UNLV Rebels 51-20 at Mackay Stadium Friday night, but it was never that close.
With the victory, Nevada becomes bowl eligible for the fourth straight year under head coach Jay Norvell, while improving to 6-2, 3-1 in the Mountain West. UNLV falls to 0-8, 0-4 in the Mountain West.
There’s a famous boxing quote that says something along the lines of, “Everyone has a plan, until they get hit.”
Nevada came out throwing haymakers.
Wolf Pack quarterback Carson Strong took the first snap of the game and handed off to running back Toa Taua who stopped, spun around, and tossed the ball back to Strong who then threw a 44-yard strike to Justin Lockhart down the right sideline.
Four plays later, senior tight end Cole Turner (seven catches, 63 yards and two touchdowns) cradled Strong’s four-yard pass in the north end zone, and the Rebels were reeling.
After Nevada’s rival to the south took that first punch to the jaw, whatever plan the Rebels had went right back down Highway 95.
Strong, on five national award watch lists, was in complete command connecting on 13 of his first 14 throws and finishing 37 of 49, for 417 yards and four touchdowns. Protected well enough to go through his progressions, the 6’- 4” junior was able to spread the ball around to nine different receivers.
UNLV quarterback Cameron Friel, on the other hand, spent the entire evening under heavy duress as wave after wave of Wolf Pack defenders nipped at his heels.
Friel was sacked five times, and only desperation throws ensured that total wasn’t double digits.
So harried was Friel that the Nevada defense recorded a pair of pick-sixes. Tyson Williams took UNLV’s second snap of the second half to the house from 49 yards, and Daiyan Henley put the cherry on top of the rout, galloping 50 yards with 4:34 remaining.
The Wolf Pack next faces conference opponent San Jose State on Nov. 6 at Mackay Stadium.
- The Nevada defense held UNLV to 16 plays and four punts in the first half.
- Kicker Brandon Talton nailed three field goals including a season-long 52-yarder.
- Strong now has six career games with at least four touchdown passes.
Michael Smyth is a writer and photographer who moved to Reno from the Bay Area in 2007. Michael retired from a corporate road-warrior sales career in 2017 where he wrote freelance small-venue music reviews on the side to keep his sanity on the road. When he isn’t covering a concert or sporting event he might be found concocting a salsa recipe, throwing barbless flies in search of trout, or recapturing the skip-and-stop wedge shot of his youth.