A Battle for Nevada: Preview to Nevada-UNLV’s upcoming Fremont Cannon Match-up

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Tight end Shaun Grayson holding up his fist to signal third down for UNLV's defense during last week's game against San José State. Photo by Jordan Anders-McClain.

The highly-anticipated annual Nevada Wolf Pack vs UNLV Rebels football game is just a couple of days away after being moved to Nevada Day weekend this season. The Rebels, still in search of a win this season, will face Nevada’s NFL draft prospect quarterback Carson Strong and his top-ranked offense this Friday.

The Fremont Cannon match-up between these in-state rivals has been sold out for weeks and will be played in Reno at Mackay Stadium. The Rebels are looking to take back the Fremont Cannon trophy after the Wolf Pack took possession of it in last year’s match-up in Las Vegas. 

Things to Know

The Battle Born Rivalry between these two schools inspired the Fremont Cannon, which was first built in 1970 specifically awarded to the winner of the Battle for Nevada. 

UNLV was the first team to win the cannon and since has had possession of the Cannon a total of 18 times throughout the trophy’s history. Although Nevada holds the all-time trophy series lead 27-18. 

Heading into this match-up, both teams are coming off a loss within one score to conference opponents in the Mountain West. However, the 5-2 Wolf Pack are a 20.5 point favorite to win the match.

Rebel’s star running back Charles Williams is looking to become UNLV’s all-time leading rusher, he is just 74 yards shy of 3733 career yards which would tie him for first. One more rushing touchdown will put him tied at fifth for all-time rushing touchdowns.

Another notable mention, UNLV head coaches are 2-9 in their first games held in Reno, the last win was in 2015 by former head coach Tony Sanchez. 

Key Match-ups

Cameron Friel vs Carson Strong

Carson Strong has certainly put up some impressive stats so far this season throwing 20 touchdowns to 4 interceptions while throwing a 70.4 completion percentage. Strong is ranked fifth in the nation in passing yards and tied for eighth in passing touchdowns. 

On the other hand, UNLV has gone through some growing pains this season but don’t count them out just yet. Quarterback Cameron Friel was ranked a top 5 PFF (Pro Football Focus) True Freshman quarterback in passing this past week. 

In week 5 against UTSA, Friel became the first UNLV quarterback to pass for 200 yards since Max Gilliam in week 2 of the previous season. Friel went on to pass for over 200 yards again last week against San José State. 

Friel has certainly been making a name for himself this season and his growing connections with receiver Kyle Williams and Charles Williams reflect that on the field. 

Nevada’s passing offense vs UNLV’s secondary

The one thing we know going into this game is Nevada is going to run a pass-heavy offense, it’s what they know. Although they have the #21 total ranked offense, Strong averages 352.29 passing yards per game, currently ranked fourth in the nation.

Nevada’s passing offense through week 8 is ranked third in the nation out of all 130 NCAA teams. Nevada’s run game is almost extinct, the team only averages 79.9 rushing yards a game. Therefore, UNLV’s secondary is gonna have their work cut out for them.

Doubling the Wolf Pack’s star receiver Romeo Doubs is going to be a must, Doubs leads his team with 590 yards on 45 receptions, averaging 13.3 yards per reception and three touchdowns. 

UNLV’s defense has allowed an average of 448.3 total yards per game this season. Defense must find new ways of stopping this offense, last week Fresno State often ran a 3-man rush which slowed down Strong’s passing game by adding more pressure to his targets. By finding these holes in Nevada’s offense, Fresno was able to walk away with a win. 

UNLV’s run game v Nevada’s defense

UNLV’s rushing offense has been one of their strong suits this season. Although in the previous two games they have relied more heavily on the passing game, it might be a good time to go back to the roots. 

Running a more rush-heavy offense will give UNLV the leverage on time clock management, by keeping the chains moving it gives Nevada’s pass-heavy offense less time on the field to score.  

Nevada’s defensive line is currently tied for third in team sacks, defensive tackle Tristian Nicholas leads his team with eight, with nearly all the others having at least one this season. 

If the Rebel’s decide to focus more on the run game, it takes out the risk of Friel being sacked multiple times, since the Wolf Pack averages 4 sacks a game. 

The Game

The Fremont Cannon matchup between the two Nevada school rivals is set for kickoff at 7 p.m. in Reno. Catch the game on CBSSN.

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