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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 13, 3:00 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Sam Boyd Stadium (36,800) -- Las Vegas, Nevada. Television: Local. Home Record: Nevada 2-1, UNLV 1-3. Away Record: Nevada 3-0, UNLV 0-2. Neutral Record: Nevada 0-0, UNLV 0-0. Conference Record: Nevada 2-0, UNLV 1-0. Series Record: Nevada leads, 22-15.
GAME NOTES: Bragging rights in the Silver State are on the line this weekend as the UNLV Rebels host the Nevada Wolf Pack in the annual Battle for the Fremont Cannon at Sam Boyd Stadium.
Now a member of the Mountain West Conference along with the Rebels, Nevada has the best overall record in the league with five wins in six opportunities. This outing always has special interest on both sides no matter how well or how poorly the teams might be performing, but this is also just the fifth time that the rivalry involves the programs while in the same conference.
So far the Pack has played quite well and if not for a one-point loss to USF (32-31) in the second game of the season the team would be undefeated. Last week, Nevada avoided a scare as it battled Wyoming into overtime in order to claim a 35-28 victory, but in the process also lost starting quarterback Cody Fajardo to injury and now he is listed as questionable for this important matchup.
As for the Rebels, they have just one win in six opportunities at this stage, their 38-35 defeat of Air Force on Sept. 22 serving to snap what had been an eight-game slide dating back to last season. More recently, the team traveled to Ruston, Louisiana where it was crushed by the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs last Saturday, 58-31.
UNLV has dropped two straight decisions and after the meeting with the Pack will be on the road for back-to-back dates against Boise State and San Diego State in conference play as well.
Nevada owns a 22-15 edge in the all-time series, thanks to a 37-0 blanking of the Rebels a year ago, the first shutout in the 37-game history of the series. The schools formerly competed as conference rivals four times between 1992-95 when they were members of the Big West Conference.
The Wolf Pack won last weekend in overtime against Wyoming at home, but it came with a significant price as Fajardo was forced to the sidelines with back spasms after completing 19-of-26 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns. Relieving Fajardo was Devin Combs who hit on 11-of-19 attempts for another 217 yards and two scores, but because of the change at quarterback the Pack had to change their approach on offense and as it turns out they saw their streak of 100-yard rushers in consecutive games snapped at 14.
Stefphon Jefferson, ranked second in the nation this week with close to 160 ypg on the ground, was held to just 78 yards and failed to make it into the end zone for the second straight game. However, assuming Combs will be the starter this time around, the responsibilities for Jefferson will surely increase and the possibility of him returning to the form that produced five straight 100-yard games to begin the campaign is more than likely.
In addition to needing Jefferson to rebound from a soft effort, Combs will also need his receivers to also pick up the slack. In the case of leading receiver Brandon Wimberly, who has 36 catches for 457 yards, it would be nice to see him get into the end zone for a change. In fact, of the players who have caught passes for Nevada thus far, nine in all, he is one of only three who has not scored a TD.
Perhaps going up against a defense like that of the Rebels will help Wimberly and Combs, seeing as how UNLV ranks ninth in the conference and 104th in the nation with close to 280.0 ypg allowed through the air. Take away the limited performance of a Northern Arizona squad early on in September and the numbers could be even worse for the Rebels right now.
Last week against LaTech the Rebels were exposed in every way possible as the hosts generated 622 yards of offense and forced UNLV's defense to remain on the field for 97 plays. UNLV managed just one sack and four tackles for loss in the meeting and failed to register a single takeaway. Over on the other side, UNLV was forced into an interception and a lost fumble, both of which were turned into touchdowns by the Bulldogs.
Nick Sherry, who took a few too many hits himself, was able to throw for 378 yards and four touchdowns in the loss, while Tim Cornett logged a team-best 111 yards on 23 rushing attempts.
Sherry has had a bumpy ride in this his first season as a starter, opening with three interceptions against Minnesota at home, but lately he has been producing more favorable numbers even though the team has still not produced consistent winning efforts overall. Sherry has thrown nine TDs in his last four games, against four picks, but he really needs his defense to make a stronger stand moving forward.
Even though Fajardo might not play and the Wolf Pack may need to change their scheme on offense to better suit Combs, the visitors still have the better bunch in this fight and should be able to conquer the Rebels in enemy territory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Nevada 31, UNLV 21
10/10 10:33:11 ET