Looking to turn the page after a tough loss against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, UNLV football coach Marcus Arroyo and the Rebels have a new focus for this week: win the Fremont Cannon.
UNLV plays its regular season finale against their in-state rival, the UNR Wolf Pack at 3 p.m. Saturday at Allegiant Stadium.
“It will all be doubled down, this is a big week,” Arroyo said Monday. “It’s rivalry week, it’s senior day, it’s cannon week and that’s a big deal for all of us around here.”
The Rebels fell to the Rainbow Warriors 31-25 last Saturday in Honolulu. The loss mathematically eliminated the Rebels from bowl eligibility as the program has still not been to a bowl game since 2013.
UNLV’s inability to capitalize on opportunities took them by surprise and after the tough loss, Arroyo said the locker room was emotional.
But now, in the final game of the season, the Rebels’ focus is to bring back the Fremont Cannon to UNLV. The Wolf Pack holds a 28-19 lead in the series and has won the last two meetings.
Arroyo has made it clear to the team that the rivalry has always been a big deal.
“The players understand that,” Arroyo said. “Our staff is full in, I’m full in and there’s nothing more important right now.”
It will also be the last home game for several seniors on the UNLV football team, which adds another element of importance to the game.
Daniel Gutierrez, Austin Ajiake, Rex Goosen, Tavis Malakias, Daviyon McDaniel, Nick Williams, Cobe Bryant, Eliel Ehimare, Kue Olotoa, and DJ Stuckey will all play their final game with the Rebels on Saturday and will be honored during a pregame ceremony.
Gutierrez, a sixth-year kicker, can make history in his final home game. He is tied with Nick Garratino with the most made field goals in program history (53).
“I’m just trying to win games with these guys,” Gutierrez said. “I do my job and I feel like my coaches and teammates do a great job of trusting me. These guys put me in the right position, they have faith in me and I have faith in myself.”
Gutierrez has made a huge impact on UNLV’s success and Arroyo knows the place Gutierrez has carved out for himself in UNLV football history.
“He’s been in situations where he needed to score and he scored, that’s the bottom line,” Arroyo said of Gutierrez. “Gút is a huge piece and we’re excited to send him out the right way.”
Senior linebacker Austin Ajiake is also heading into his final game with the Rebels. The Fremont, California native is looking forward to putting on the UNLV jersey one more time and the opportunity to end his career with the Rebels by beating their rival.
“It’d mean a lot just to go out with a bang against the rival opponent and just to send me and the rest of the seniors out on a high note,” Ajiake said. “They have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, it’s going to be a good game.”
Arroyo is looking ahead and understands the importance of this game for the community, and everyone involved with the UNLV football program.
“I just know the last time you sit in a locker room with a group with time invested in something that’s really special to you, it’s really hard and it doesn’t hit you until it’s there,” Arroyo said. “I’m going to make it very evident how important it is for the seniors, for the young guys, for the program, for the community, and for the college football rivalry.”
Senior day festivities will take place at approximately 2:25 p.m. on the field at Allegiant Stadium. The game will be broadcasted live on UNLV’s student radio station, KUNV 91.5 The Rebel HD2.