Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Monday, Oct. 28, 2013 | 2 a.m.
The two streaks that most defined UNLV football — losses on the road and losses to UNR — have both come to an end this season. First the Rebels won on the road, and then on Saturday they took back the Fremont Cannon. Doing so in Reno was an added bonus for the players who relished the chance to silence their rival’s fans.
Because UNLV has been able to vanquish those negative streaks, it can focus more clearly on a positive one: the 12-year streak without a bowl game appearance. One more victory would make these Rebels (5-3, 3-1) bowl eligible for the first time since 2000.
That’s been a theme for UNLV this season, with positive numbers and records far outweighing the negatives. Here are a few more that mark just how unique this season is for the Rebels:
1 — Other time in program history UNLV took the cannon away from UNR in Reno. That came in 1979, when the Rebels won 26-21.
Since then, the cannon has changed hands eight times, including Saturday night. If the current trend holds, UNLV won’t be giving it back anytime soon.
Before this weekend, UNR possessed the cannon for eight years. Before that it was UNLV’s for five years, and before that streak the Wolf Pack had it for five years. The last time the cannon changed colors in back-to-back seasons was 1994-95.
This is a rivalry of streaks. Over the past 24 years, UNLV’s victory in 1994 stands out as the lone exception in a series in which one team has won at least five in a row. So now the Rebels can either start their own streak or become another outlier, as they did nearly 20 years ago.
4 — Victories in which UNLV trailed or was tied in the second half. The Rebels’ only victory that didn’t require at least some form of a comeback was a 38-7 win against Western Illinois.
This is new for the Rebels. Even last year, a 10-point deficit often felt like at least double that. Now it’s almost expected that UNLV will fall behind early and then fight its way back.
It’s likely impossible for any game this season to surpass the improbability of the Hawaii comeback — UNLV led by 19 with 8:12 remaining, then trailed by one with 1:44 left before kicker Nolan Kohorst’s buzzer beater — but Saturday’s win offered a less heart attack-inducing version.
UNLV trailed 16-14 in the fourth quarter and then flipped the score to 27-16. UNLV safety Frank Crawford set up the first score with a fumble recovery — his second takeaway of the game — and the second was a long, clock-draining drive with equal parts Tim Cornett on the ground and Devante Davis through the air.
That first score wasn’t overly impressive. Teams should score in that situation. It was the second drive that’s new for UNLV. That’s the one that required much more work and execution, and that’s the one that put the Rebels over the top.
10 — Davis’ touchdown receptions this year, one off the single-season school record.
That mark belongs to Sam Greene, who set the record in 1980. Davis is tied for second with Nate Turner (2000) and Henry Bailey (1994).
Davis hasn’t been a secret for the entire season, yet he continues to see a lot of man coverage. He continues to exploit that, like he did on his second touchdown Saturday when he fought off a single defender on the right side of the end zone and hauled in Caleb Herring’s pass.
More impressive than Davis’ scoring is the variety of ways he’s getting into the end zone. Davis can beat his man one-on-one in a short-yardage situation, like that second score. He can also take a short pass over the middle and evade defenders for a 44-yard touchdown like his first score.
Add in Davis’ one-handed catch for a third-down conversion in the first half and you could make a decent highlight tape out of this game alone. And that wouldn’t even factor in Davis’ abilities to snag passes over multiple defenders or pull in throws on fade routes.