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Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015 | 9:15 p.m.
He once celebrated when the UNLV football team lost to rival UNR. He was there when the blue Fremont Cannon was wheeled into the Wolf Pack locker room, and hooted and hollered with teammates as they rejoiced in beating their rivals.
But Logan Yunker, a Las Vegas kid, didn’t feel completely right. Deep inside, he was a Rebel.
Fast-forward four seasons. Yunker could not have scripted a better outcome.
He transferred home to UNLV in 2012 after one season at UNR, and in his final time playing in the Fremont Cannon rivalry Saturday, had the game of his life in the Rebels' 23-17 victory. The cannon, with his help, will again be painted Rebel red.
Each of his three first-half punts landed inside the UNR 10-yard line, giving the Wolf Pack difficult field position and helping the Rebels build a 13-point halftime advantage. When Reno got the ball to start the second half at its 28-yard line, it marked the best starting position it'd had to that point.
One punt went 53 yards. Twice, his punts were down at the 2-yard line. The third punt rolled dead at the 7.
Yes, the Arbor View product had one of those nights he won’t soon forget, especially considering the Rebels beat UNR for just the second time in 11 seasons.
“When I originally came here (to Reno), it was great, but it wasn’t for me,” Yunker said. “I tried to be a part of the Wolf Pack when I was always a Rebel.”
The night wasn’t all about Yunker. He’s just a punter, after all. Rather, it was how this UNLV team, led by passionate first-year Coach Tony Sanchez, is proving to have a little something extra other versions of Rebel football didn’t. The Rebels were limited to just 55 yards in the second half after quarterback Blake Decker went down with a shoulder injury late in the first half. Reno had all the momentum and its fans — part of the ninth-largest crowd in Mackay Stadium history at 29,551 — were roaring loudly. And it started to rain — elements the Rebels, a team from the desert, surely didn’t appreciate.
But Ryan McAleenan had a 52-yard interception return for a touchdown on a deflected pass and the Rebels held on for dear life. It was a signature win in Sanchez’s brief coaching era, the first of what appear to be several memorable nights on the horizon for the Rebel program.
Yunker is enjoying the ride. He got to celebrate again with the cannon; the Rebels also won in 2013. More important, he got to cherish another night with his family.
The Yunkers attend every game, home and away, and have been his biggest fans. They’ve been there for every step of the way, from his decision to leave for UNR, coming back to Las Vegas and potentially into a NFL camp next summer. Yunker is on the Preseason Watch List for the Ray Guy Award, and has a pro leg.
“Growing up, I was always a Rebel. I was always cheering for that team,” he said. “I missed my family a lot. I really wanted to come back and play in front of family and friends, and have nights like this.”
A few more nights like this might include an extra game. The Rebels (2-3) need four wins in their remaining seven games to become bowl-eligible, which would be perfect ending to Yunker’s college career. And consider how weak the Mountain West is this season, it’s now a realistic possibility.
“Coach Sanchez has done a great job of coming in here and setting us on fire,” Yunker said. “He has ignited the program. He brings great energy. We weren’t ready to be mediocre.”