Matt: Beating UNLV is more important than a bowl game
It’s a tough call, but taking home the Fremont Cannon — the largest and most expensive award in college football — is more rewarding than winning a bowl game. Nevada’s won 11 out of the last 14 matchups between the two teams — with all three losses coming in the last six years. What took place on Saturday night was absolutely inexcusable. Blowing a 20-point first quarter lead to UNLV? The largest choke in the history of the rivalry. Unacceptable. Regardless of what happened over the course of the season, the biggest game of the season — and every season — has been UNLV.
Norvell had these guys rolling this year superseding expectations of what this season would look like, but Saturday night wasn’t one of those times. Nevada’s rush defense, which allowed 126.9 yards per game coming into the game, surrendered 226 rushing yards on the evening. That’s the second highest mark on the season, with Toledo’s 230 total rushing yards came higher.
Nevada’s 23-16 victory last season tasted so sweet in so many ways, partly because it took away bowl eligibility from UNLV, despite Nevada going 3-9 on the season. Finishing the season 5-0 in the final five games would feel so much better, going into bowl season. At least there’s time to get one more victory, but it’s bittersweet.
Ryan Freeberg: Nevada football is fine, enjoy the couch UNLV
The loss of the Fremont Cannon stings, but not as bad as sitting home for bowl season. Despite a gut-wrenching loss at the hands of UNLV, Nevada will enjoy a bowl appearance while the Rebels will change into their sweatpants and settle in for the long offseason again. Nevada may have lost this battle but still leads the war currently leading the all-time series 26-18.
Nevada football is bowl eligible for the first time under head coach Jay Norvell since joining the team in 2017— also the first bowl-eligible season since 2015. Norvell has guided this team to a respectable seven-win season, highlighted with big wins over Hawai’i and Colorado State. Nevada finishes the season with the 21st ranked passing attack in the nation and the 33rd rushing defense. This after the team only won three games in the previous year with the 119th ranked defense.
Overreacting to a single loss is never good — regardless of who it is against. Nevada fans still have a lot to be thankful for this season, including that the Pack is about the get a payday to cap off their season. Just for appearing in a bowl game, money is granted to the university — something that UNLV could really use.
Quarterback Ty Gangi helped to lead this team, as he finished his season with over 3,000 passing yards — placing him at 17th in the nation. His strong play helps to lay the foundation of a young offensive core with players such as McLane Mannix, Toa Taua and Devonte Lee.
With a theoretical win in the upcoming bowl game, this would be the highest win total for Nevada since Colin Kaepernick left following the 2010 season. UNLV hasn’t been able to win seven games since 2013.
It’s time to settle down as a fan base. Of course, losing to UNLV isn’t the desired outcome but having a winning season is better in the long run. A winning team — and season — will bring more accolades and trophies to Nevada. So let UNLV have this win, consider it a consolation prize for a terrible season.
Matt Hanifan and Ryan Freeberg can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @SagebrushSports.