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Fremont Cannon returns South as UNLV beats UNR for first time since 2019

Fifth-year UNLV defensive lineman Eliel Ehimare wheels in the Fremont Cannon after the team's, 27-22, win over UNR. Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

After being down 13 points in the first nine-plus minutes of the game, UNLV’s defensive unit buckled down and helped the team pick up its first win in the Silver State Series since 2019. In addition, the team captures the Fremont Cannon at home for the first time since 2018.

With less than 10 seconds on the clock, the defense made a final goal line stand that included stopping the Wolf Pack with four chances at the end zone from inside the red zone.

“That locker room is on fire right now,” head coach Marcus Arroyo said. “Not literally. But it’s an awesome place to be in college football and the atmosphere that these seniors get to go out on, there’s nothing like it.”

UNLV beat in-state rival, Nevada – Reno, 27-22, Saturday, Nov. 26 from Allegiant Stadium in the Battle for the Fremont Cannon. With the win, the team has the luxury of painting the historic cannon red on campus this upcoming week.

Moreover, it goes down as the first win in the rivalry for Arroyo, who was winless in two prior attempts.

UNLV head coach Marcus Arroyo paces down the sideline at Allegiant Stadium. Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

“It’s a huge deal,” Arroyo said. “It was the seniors – and those 10 guys spoke all week. The No. 2 thing was that cannon. That cannon has a legacy behind it, it has a legacy for each team, it’s got a community behind it [...] It’s got a lot of power in college football.”

The win also puts an end to a six-game losing streak for the Rebels after starting the year 4-1.

Now the team will await a possible bowl invitation after finishing the season one game shy of being bowl-eligible at 5-7. The five wins are the most for the program since 2017.

“The [defining] moment right now is sending the guys out the right way,” Arroyo said. “This was 1000% about that locker room right now [...] There was nothing that we did this past week that would let me sit back and look into the season and try to even think about [what defines this season].”

In what could be the team’s season finale, UNLV forced three UNR turnovers en route to the five-point win. Last week, the defense punched out two fourth quarter fumbles in the Rebels’ failed comeback effort.

“Fantastic job,” Arroyo said of the defense. “We said it going in and we’ve said it all season, ‘It’s going to be one side or the other that’s got to step up and make a play.’”

The game-changing play came in the form of a scoop-and-score by defensive back Jonathan Baldwin for the home team that put the team on the board for the first time. The fumble came on a botched pitch attempt.

Rebels defensive back Jonathan Baldwin celebrates while scoring on a fumble return during the team's win over the Wolf Pack Saturday night. Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

The team has now scored on fumble recoveries in back-to-back games after going without one for six years.

From the start of the game, UNLV’s defense was put in less-than-desirable field position on more than one occasion.

After having a punt blocked on their opening drive, the Rebels handed the ball to the Wolf Pack on their own 17 yard-line. The defense stiffened and turned the opponent away with just three points.

On the next drive, a 34-yard punt return by UNR set the team up at the UNLV 37 yard-line. Again, the defense forced a field goal from the visitors.

The lone first half sore spot was a 75-yard deep bomb by the Wolf Pack that put the team up, 13-0 with 5:45 left in the first quarter.

UNR scored again in the second half, with less than two and a half minutes left in regulation.

However, UNLV’s defense came up with two second half interceptions that killed drives that would’ve taken the lead.

The first went to the aforementioned Baldwin, who picked up his first interception of the season. Earlier this week, Baldwin told the Las Vegas Review Journal that teammates were giving him a hard time due to being the only starting secondary player without an interception.

UNLV defensive back Jonathan Baldwin, with teammates, celebrate his first interception of the season at the team's slot machine on the sideline. Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

“I gave up a big play early so I just had to keep my composure after that,” Baldwin said. “I was definitely excited. Every [defensive back] had a pick except me [so] it was nice to join my teammates with that.”

Baldwin was also responsible for the scoop-and-score earlier in the game as well as sealing the game on the pass breakup on UNR’s final offensive drive.

“The last play we went zero, man-to-man,” Baldwin explained. “[The receiver] ran an under [route] and I just [charged forward] and got the pass breakup.”

Junior defensive back BJ Harris claimed the team’s other interception, snagging his in the fourth quarter with UNLV up four.

Rebels defensive back BJ Harris is surrounded by teammates after his interception served as the team's second of the game. Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

The stifling defense was enough to overcome four straight three-and-outs by the Rebel offense to start the game.

Sophomore quarterback Doug Brumfield was only in for the first two drives of the game before leaving with a back injury. He went 0-for-2 in his early stint.

“Doug’s back went out,” Arroyo said. “It was really random. It was a little bit of a flare up of the same thing he had last year.”

Tennessee-transfer Harrison Bailey, who was listed on the depth chart as the third-stringer behind sophomore quarterback Cameron Friel, took snaps for the remainder of the game. Bailey hadn’t played since Oct. 22 on the road at Notre Dame.

The quarterback switch marked the 16th time in Arroyo’s 27 game coaching career at UNLV.

UNLV quarterback Harrison Bailey rifles a pass at receiver Ricky White III during the team's win over in-state rival UNR Saturday night. Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

“Just staying consistent with my actions each and every day,” Bailey said. “Keeping the same routine, watching the same film, just doing the regular things at a high-level would help me stay ready for times like this.”

Bailey found his biggest play of the game in the form of a 49-yard deep ball to junior receiver Kyle Williams that went for a touchdown. That highlight-reel play gave the Rebels their first lead of the game in the second quarter. The two nearly connected for another one in the second half but Bailey overthrew an open Williams.

Bailey did strike for touchdown No. 2 on the night but it went to senior receiver Nick Williams in his final career home game and possibly final collegiate career game overall. This passing touchdown was thrown into triple coverage but a leaping grab by Nick secured the score.

Rebels receiver Nick Williams beats the Wolf Pack coverage for a touchdown at Allegiant Stadium. Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

Bailey had one hiccup in the game when he was hit as he threw and ultimately threw an interception to the Wolf Pack. The defense minimized the mistake by limiting UNR to another field goal on the other end to keep UNLV ahead by a point, 17-16.

By the end of the night, Bailey had completed 16 of his 27 passes, throwing for 209 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

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