LAS VEGAS – Vai Taua rushed for three touchdowns and caught a fourth as No. 25 Nevada rolled past intrastate rival UNLV 44-26 on Saturday night to win the Battle for the Fremont Cannon.
The Rebels could do little to stop the Wolf Pack's rushing attack, led by Taua's 188 yards. Nevada scored five touchdowns on the ground on 374 total rushing yards — and never punted.
In a rivalry marked by bad blood between northern and southern Nevadans, Wolf Pack fans poured onto the field as their team let the final seconds tick off the clock in the 18-point victory by a team favored by more than 20. On its final drive, Nevada (5-0) declined to run out the clock until less than 30 seconds remained, instead running plays behind backup quarterback Tyler Lantrip.
"I've never seen the cannon any other color," said Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who had 97 yards rushing with a touchdown, and 124 yards passing with one touchdown and an interception.
"Nice to see a lot of blue in the crowd," he said.
The prize for the Silver State victory is a 545-pound model of the howitzer explorer John C. Fremont brought when he came west to Nevada in 1843. The trophy cost $10,000 to build 40 years ago. The winning team gets to decorate the trophy in its school colors, and Nevada has won it six straight years.
Nevada coach Chris Ault has repeatedly said beating UNLV is his team's top priority. Now that it's done that, his secondary goals are putting up a winning record and winning a Western Athletic Conference title.
"We're undefeated, but we can't rest on our laurels," Ault said.
UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said his team didn't take advantage of its opportunities — Nevada had three turnovers and once turned the ball over on downs.
"We lost to our rival. I'm not pleased right now. We've got to recruit," Hauck said.
Taua's scores came on rushes of 2, 3 and 72 yards, along with a 22-yard swing pass from quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
On the 72-yard run, Taua said a hole "the size of a truck" opened up in UNLV's defense.
"I didn't see anyone at the other end of the hole so I tried to hit it a little harder," he said.
UNLV quarterback Omar Clayton found some rhythm in the second half with wideout Phillip Payne, who had 170 receiving yards but no scores to show for it. Clayton finished with a rushing touchdown and 214 passing yards, including a touchdown to Anthony Vidal with 4:35 left in the fourth quarter.
Nevada had 516 total yards, averaging 7.5 yards per play. The Wolf Pack had 29 first downs but faced third down only seven times, converting four times.
UNLV (1-4) had 294 yards but just 80 yards rushing.
Nevada gained 230 yards by halftime, scoring four touchdowns without needing to punt or attempt a field goal. Taua rushed for 90 yards in the half, and Kaepernick's only incomplete pass was an interception that the Rebels couldn't take advantage of.
UNLV scored 14 points on rushing touchdowns by Clayton and running back Bradley Randle.
Randle's touchdown came after Nevada's Rishard Matthews fumbled a punt return, setting UNLV up at the Wolf Pack 17 yard line. Four plays later, Randle jumped over a pile of linemen for a 1-yard touchdown that tied the score at 7.
Nevada and UNLV then traded touchdowns, with the Wolf Pack's Courtney Randall scoring on a 1-yard run and Clayton returning the favor with an 8-yard keeper after a fake handoff.