The Fremont Cannon is back in Reno and for Wolf Pack fans everywhere, things are once again right in the world.
After a resounding 49-27 Nevada victory over archrival UNLV this past Saturday, it would seem that Nevada football has accomplished one of its biggest goals of the season. However, what was somewhat lost amid the silver and blue-garbed supporters that rushed the Sam Boyd Stadium field was that, in the larger picture, the victory was not the final piece of a strong season for the football team, but a stepping stone in the right direction. The game against the Rebels should represent the standard that both fans and players ought to be held to.
We are not downplaying the importance of winning the Fremont Cannon, but fans should have expected their team to come out with enough venom and anger from the Fresno State loss to blast a dreadful 2-10 UNLV team to pieces. Even though the Pack was down three at halftime, many fans were beginning to feel nervous about the final outcome. However, 35 second-half points from Nevada confirmed the victory so many fans were hoping to see.
Yet, with sporadic attendance throughout the season, it is not certain that many fans would have known that Nevada overcame a much larger deficit at halftime (18 points) to BYU on the road earlier this year. At halftime of a significant number of games this year, fans left for the exits whether the Pack was winning or losing. This is highly troubling because it does signify that some fans show up just to tailgate and not stay to support the actual reason for the occasion.
Almost outnumbering the scarlet UNLV fans in Las Vegas, Nevada supporters should have shown this kind of support during all significant games this season. Fans should have higher standards for themselves and the teams that they are cheering for. After all, the Wolf Pack could have used its fans against Fresno State two weeks ago, but many left at halftime in a game that could have been Nevada’s ticket to the Mountain West title game.
Nonetheless, Nevada fans will have the chance to prove themselves, as there is plenty to look forward to past the UNLV game for the remainder of the year’s athletic calendar.
A significant part about the win is that Nevada is now ahead of its interstate rival (7.5-4.5) in the third annual Governor’s series, which pits the Rebels against the Wolf Pack’s student-athletes in a competition across all sports and academics. Overshadowed sports across campus have also been doing well – the rifle team is nationally ranked, the swimming and diving squad is undefeated and women’s basketball is starting to turn its season around. The Rebels have won the Governor’s Cup the last two years, but the Pack has a good chance to make it close in the third installment of the series.
Sitting at 7-5, the football season is also not even close to being over. According to ESPN’s bowl projections, Nevada is slated to play in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl later this month. This would be Brian Polian’s first bowl game as head coach of the Wolf Pack and it would give Nevada a chance to win its first bowl game since Colin Kaepernick was on campus. If these projections are correct, the game would be played in Boise, Idaho, which is seven hours away from Reno. While that might be perceived as a long trek, this has not prevented Boise State fans from attending games at Mackay Stadium. Each year, Bronco fans show up by the hundreds to support their team from beginning to end and this is effectively the gold standard for Mountain West fan support.
Finally, if more fans start showing up, the athletes themselves will invariably be held to a higher standard because of the higher stakes. Wolf Pack fans need to buy into the program in order for it to succeed, it is as simple as that. Getting more wins on the field also means that more school pride will be instilled on campus.
In many ways the athletic department is the front porch of the university because it is what many see on television, as opposed to the campus itself. Additionally, if it is known that its team’s supporters are apathetic, then it will hurt the school’s public perception more than many fans think. Finally, with an increased emphasis on winning the academic component of the Governor’s Series scoring scale, student-athletes will be pushed harder to do better in the classroom, which is the essential purpose of a university.
Fans can hold on to the glory days of the 2010 football team or the Nick Fazekas-era of men’s basketball, and that is fine for those that were there. However, for the ones that are here now (students and athletes alike), they have a chance to witness and make their own history, which is something that is truly special.
The Nevada Sagebrush editorial staff can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.