FACTS & STATS: Site: Mackay Stadium (29,993) -- Reno, Nevada. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: UNLV 3-1, Nevada 3-0. Away Record: UNLV 1-2, Nevada 0-4. Neutral Record: UNLV 0-0, Nevada 0-0. Conference Record: UNLV 2-1, Nevada 2-2. Series Record: Nevada leads, 23-15.
GAME NOTES: The Nevada Wolf Pack will try to remain undefeated at home on the season, but this weekend the team will be challenged by the UNLV Rebels in the annual Battle for the Fremont Cannon.
Nevada has rattled off wins against UC Davis, Hawaii and Air Force at Mackay Stadium this season, but the squad is a completely different animal out on the road where it is winless in four attempts. The most recent setback for the Pack came last weekend in Boise where the team bowed in a 34-17 decision.
Now under the direction of first-year head coach Brian Polian, Nevada finds itself 2-2 in league play, which is good enough for fifth place in the West Division of the Mountain West Conference.
As for the Rebels, they are having a banner year, at least by their recent standards, sporting a 4-3 record overall. Considering the team had not won more than two games in any one of the previous three campaigns under head coach Bobby Hauck, the Rebels have to be pleased with their progress. However, last week UNLV ran up against nationally-ranked Fresno State on the road and suffered a 38-14 loss, snapping a four-game win streak in the process.
Last year, Nevada captured a 42-37 victory in Sin City, pushing the team's win streak over the Rebels to eight in a row and its overall advantage in the all- time series to 23-15. The current run of success by the Pack is the longest during any stretch of the series, which dates back to 1969.
Enjoying unprecedented success over the last month, compared to what they've endured the last several seasons, the Rebels were bound to have their four- game win streak come to an end at some point and that's exactly what happened when they were crushed by the Bulldogs. While giving up 641 yards of total offense, the Rebels generated a mere 294 yards, converting just 5-of-15 on third down and 1-of-4 on fourth down during the matchup.
Quarterback Caleb Herring connected on 27-of-24 passes for 161 yards and a score, while being sacked three times. Shaquille Murray-Lawrence logged a game-high 79 yards rushing and a touchdown on just three carries, but were it not for his 73-yard score the final numbers would have been even more one- sided.
He finished with just 49 yards against the Bulldogs last week, but still Tim Cornett took over the top spot on the all-time rushing list for the Rebels, surpassing Mike Thomas who nearly four decades ago tallied 3,149 yards. Cornett now has 3,158 yards and counting, not to mention being second to Thomas in both career touchdowns at UNLV and rushing scores as well.
Herring, who has taken over for Nick Sherry, is completing an impressive 68.3 percent of his passes with 10 touchdowns against just a single interception. Devante Davis is his favorite outlet, coming up with 44 catches for 664 yards and eight touchdowns.
Unfortunately, UNLV has had some serious issues on the defensive side of the ball this season, most specifically by giving up a massive 251.4 ypg on the ground which ranks the squad 119th in the nation. The pass defense has been much more stout, allowing 204.3 ypg, but still the bottom line is that the group is permitting 36.3 ppg and that comes in as 108th in the country.
The Wolf Pack knocked Boise State's quarterback out of the game on the very first play from scrimmage for the Broncos, yet Nevada could not take advantage and eventually suffered the 17-point setback on the blue turf. Nevada even led 10-0 midway through the second quarter, but in the second half the visitors saw their offensive production stymied by the Broncos.
Cody Fajardo managed to convert 22-of-29 passes for 208 yards, but he failed to get a single pass into the end zone while being sacked six times. Brandon Wimberly caught 11 passes for a game-high 121 yards, while Kendall Brock and Don Jackson both scored on the ground for the Pack, but still the team lost for the second time in as many outings.
Wimberly, who has now caught at least one pass in 47 straight games, is easily the most productive receiver for the Pack again this year with 57 grabs for 533 yards and five touchdowns. Fajardo, who has yet to throw a single interception on 187 attempts, has completed 69.5 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns, with much of the thanks going to Wimberly.
But as well as Fajardo, Wimberly and the rest of the offense may perform for the Pack, the squad is still hampered by a defense that is giving up a staggering 287.1 ypg on the ground, ranking them 122nd in the country. Overall, the group is permitting almost 500 ypg and that has led to 37.6 ppg for the competition.
With a lackluster defense dragging them down, the Wolf Pack won't be easily running away with a win this weekend, although a victory should still be in the cards given how well Fajardo has performed and the fact that Nevada is playing with the hometown crowd backing them up.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Nevada 38, UNLV 30
Saturday, October 26, 6:05 p.m. (et).