UNLV’s football team has struggled to a 2-10 record this season, while upstate rival Nevada has fought its way to 6-5. The thing is, records don’t matter this Saturday. The only thing that matters is which team—red or blue, south or north—leaves with the victory and temporary rights to the 550-pound Fremont Cannon, one of the most storied trophies in college football (based on size, mostly).
Last year, the Rebels took the prize and the win, 27-22, snapping an eight-game Wolf Pack winning streak in the rivalry. Nevada still leads the all-time series, 23-16. Each time the two teams clash, there’s always a chance things will get weird, intense, or both. Here are some of the standout moments in the rivalry’s history.
1973: UNLV was the first to control the cannon (built in 1970), but Nevada was the first to fire it. A student unleashes the first Fremont Cannon blast when the Wolf Pack beats the Rebels, 19-3. Now it’s tradition for the team in possession of the cannon to fire it after scoring a touchdown during the annual rivalry game.
1978: After the Pack upsets the Rebels in Las Vegas, Nevada coach Chris Ault and his team figure out how to take the cannon apart and carry it on the plane in small pieces for the victorious flight home to Reno. This is too strange to make up.
1994: Jeff Horton, a Nevada graduate and longtime Wolf Pack football assistant coach, leaves his alma mater after just one year as head coach to lead the Rebels’ squad instead. Horton adds to the legend of the “Red Defection” when the host Rebels upset heavily favored Nevada on the way to a conference championship.
1995: With the rivalry as bitter as it’s ever been, a pregame brawl erupts on the field at Mackay Stadium. The Wolf Pack retaliates by running up the score, winning 55-32. Rebel Quincy Sanders—a graduate of Reed High School in Sparks, a Reno suburb—throws his helmet but misses the Pack’s coach Ault after the game.
2000: The Rebels celebrate a 38-7 victory at Sam Boyd by teaming with students and fans to lift the cannon, then drop it. The athletic department covers the cost of repairs: $1,500.
2003: UNLV coach John Robinson takes a plastic beer bottle to the face at halftime, an object hurled by a Nevada fan. Inspired and/or angered, the Rebels rally for a 16-12 victory.
2005: First-year UNLV coach Mike Sanford issues a directive to his team that the Wolf Pack should only be referred to as “The team up north.” No Nevada, no Reno, no UNR. Sanford is fired in 2010, having never beaten the team up north.