Sunday, Oct. 3, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.
With tickets for the UNLV-UNR game sold out, fans crowded outside Sam Boyd Stadium on Saturday to soak up the excitement of the rivalry.
Alcohol flowed freely and fans taunted each other as they tailgated outside the stadium, hours before the game started.
Fans traveled from all over Nevada to watch the highly anticipated matchup between the Rebels and Wolf Pack.
Patrick McDermott, a 26-year-old MBA candidate at UNR, flew down from Reno to watch the game with friends. As he struggled with the wind while playing beer pong, he said he was happy the Wolf Pack was entering the game nationally ranked for the first time since 1948.
“UNR’s athletic teams have gotten better and better. Go Wolf Pack,” McDermott said.
Fans — many wearing T-shirts with slogans such as “Better dead than red” and “Reno sucks” — grilled hamburgers and drank beer in the dirt parking lot. For the most part, it appeared fans were cordial as they anticipated where the Fremont Cannon would end up.
“It’s called the Fremont Cannon,” said UNLV fan Henry Ramirez as he prepped his charcoal grill. “It belongs on Fremont Street.”
Gianni Perano, a 19-year-old UNR sophomore who made the seven-hour drive to Las Vegas, didn’t think so. “We’re going to slaughter them,” Perano said. “They’re going to have no chance.”
Some fans had a personal stake in the game. Simone Smith — who said her boyfriend is UNLV defensive end Matt Kravetz — said she knows how important the rivalry is for the Rebels.
“As much as it means to people out here, it means a lot more to the players,” the 21-year-old UNLV senior said, pointing the crowds gathering in front of the stadium. “There are only two major colleges in Nevada. People are fiercely loyal to one or the other.”
Mike Randall, whose son Courtney Randall is a running back for the Wolf Pack, echoed Smith’s comments.
The way his son gets hyped for the game, he said, “you know this is the biggest game of the season. It’s a can’t-miss game...You can’t go home without the cannon.”
Despite the intense rivalry, fans of the red and blue sometimes shared a light-hearted moment.
Nicole Smith, a 2004 UNLV graduate, made a friendly bet last year with her friend, Sean Choi, a UNR fan from Sacramento, Calif. The loser had to wear the other side’s colors at this year’s game.
“I’m just disappointed. I thought UNLV would win last year,” said Hunt, 30, sporting a navy blue T-shirt.