The UNLV Rebels-Nevada Wolf Pack football rivalry has been marked by its share of tense moments, and Saturday’s postgame brawl was among the ugliest.
Seconds after UNLV wide receiver Steve Jenkins caught a 19-yard touchdown pass to give the Rebels a 33-30 overtime victory at Mackay Stadium in Reno, he began running toward the Wolf Pack bench, appearing to taunt players.
Rebels quarterback Kenyon Oblad, a Liberty High School graduate, appeared to say something to Wolf Pack safety Austin Arnold, who went to Bishop Gorman. Arnold then slammed Oblad to the turf, sparking a fight between the teams.
“We scored the last touchdown, and we were all going crazy,” Oblad said. “I ran to the end zone to celebrate, and I got blindsided. Then the whole thing started.”
Most of the fighting occurred in front of the south end zone at Mackay Stadium, and Rebels tight end Noah Bean and Wolf Pack nose tackle Hausia Sekona wrestled in a snowbank near the bleachers. Fans from that end zone — known as the “zonies” — began to toss objects onto the field, and a bright green soda bottle struck Review-Journal videographer Cassie Soto on her left ear. She was not seriously injured.
A Wolf Pack fan ripped the helmet off of Rebels offensive lineman Jackson Reynolds.
Both athletic directors — Desiree Reed-Francois for the Rebels and Doug Knuth for the Wolf Pack — said in a joint statement that both schools are working with the Mountain West to examine the videos as well as cooperating with the Nevada, Reno police “to review the actions on the field and in the stands after the game.”
This wasn’t the first such incident between the schools.
The ugliest was in 1995 when the teams skirmished before and after the game in the return of former Wolf Pack coach Jeff Horton, who was then coaching the Rebels. Rebels safety Quincy Sanders threw his helmet near Wolf Pack coach Chris Ault.
Rebels coach John Robinson was hit near his head with a plastic water bottle in 2003. Two years earlier, Robinson ran up the score as a payback to Wolf Pack fans.
Tony Sanchez coached his final game for the Rebels on Saturday, and he and Wolf Pack coach Jay Norvell pulled apart players from the brawl.
“Anytime you’re going into that end of the end zone, there’s a chance that something bad will happen,” Sanchez said. “It’s really unfortunate. I hope it doesn’t take away from what our guys did (in the game). I’m really proud of what our guys did. It was a really dangerous situation.
“There’s no place in football for that. It won’t be my job to go talk to them. The next guy can talk to them about it, and I’m sure the coach over there (Norvell) will do the same thing.”
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.
Athletic directors issue statement
University of Nevada, Reno athletic director Doug Knuth and University of Nevada, Las Vegas athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois issued a joint statement after the postgame brawl between the schools’ football teams Saturday:
“The events that occurred following today’s football game have no place in college athletics and we are deeply disappointed by this incident, which detracts from what was a hard-fought and emotional football game between our state’s only two NCAA programs.
“We are examining all available video from the incident and working with the Mountain West office in a full review. Additionally, we are working with the University of Nevada, Reno Police Department to review the actions on the field and in the stands after the game.
“Rivalry games are at the heart of what should be great about intercollegiate athletics. We will continue to prioritize sportsmanship at all of our events, especially those between our two great institutions.”