Something historic happened at Sam Boyd Stadium on Saturday night. And if you’re unaware (how much are you paying for rent under that rock?), it was bad. At least for the UNLV faithful.
In Reno, it will become one of the first bullet points in the perpetual verbal sparring between the intra-state rivals.
The Rebels were on the wrong end of the biggest upset in college football history, according to oddsmakers. Favored by a whopping 45 points over FCS program Howard, UNLV lost 43-40. The Rebels have worn some bad losses. This is the worst. Oh, and they paid the Bison $600,000 for the game.
Moneyline bets were reportedly not being accepted at Las Vegas sportsbooks (FBS vs FCS games are occasionally not even on the board), but they were at some offshore sites. A bet on Howard to win the game outright was paying out at a dizzying +55000. RJ Bell of Fox Sports Radio tweeted after the game that a $100 bet on Howard would’ve cashed out at $55,000. Someone replied with a screenshot of a $2 bet on Bison that was worth $1,100.
For some perspective, when Holly Holm provided the biggest upset in UFC history, defeating Ronda Rousey in November 2015, she was a +750 longshot.
The game was played a decade and one day after Appalachian State went to Michigan and beat the Wolverines in Ann Arbor, 34-32. Depending on where you look, Michigan was favored by around 30 points in that game.
Later that year, when the Jim-Harbaugh-led Stanford Cardinal upset the Pete-Carroll-led USC Trojans at the Coliseum, 24-23, USC was a 40-point favorite.
Vegas said Howard’s win was more unlikely than each of those infamous contests. The Bison were 3-19 in their previous three seasons, while the Rebels are starting their third year under former Bishop Gorman head coach, Tony Sanchez.
And just because losing the game didn’t provide enough agony for the Rebels … Highly regarded Athlon Sports likened UNLV freshman quarterback Armani Rogers (6-5, 225 pounds) to Cam Newton in the preseason. No pressure.
Howard was led by a freshman quarterback of its own who probably should have received more comparisons to Newton (his 5-11, 175-pound frame the largest deterrent). Brothers tend to be similar.
Caylin Newton, the little bro of the Heisman Trophy winner and 2015 NFL MVP, was decent throwing the ball (15-of-26 for 140 yards with a TD and INT), and unstoppable running it. He tucked the rock 21 times for 190 yards (9 yards/carry) and two touchdowns.
So not only did UNLV pay $600,000 to endure one of the worst losses in the history of college football to start one of the most anticipated seasons ever at UNLV, karma had to get involved too.
Perhaps Rogers develops into the dual-threat weapon the Mountain West won’t have an answer for (he did have a nice game on Saturday with 302 total yards). Perhaps he leads the Rebels to success never before seen (the history isn’t exactly rich). Perhaps his name is even called during the NFL draft in a few years.
But there’s only one Cam Newton. And he has a little brother. He plays for the Howard Bison.
Stakes already in play for Nevada’s home opener
Nevada surprised pundits. It surprised fans. And it probably even surprised itself a little.
The Wolf opened the season on Saturday at Northwestern and looked far better than anticipated. It could have scored a rather significant upset victory of its own (Northwestern was favored by 24.5 points) if not for a few missed shots down the field, a couple turnovers, and a brutal “forward progress” call at the end of the game.
The promising start makes six wins and a bowl game appear more realistic than at first thought. It also adds incentive to the home opener on Saturday against MAC favorite, Toledo. With tough road games at Washington State, Boise State, Colorado State and San Diego State, the outcome on Saturday afternoon could potentially decide if this team goes bowling in Jay Norvell’s first year.
4A North volleyball remaining competitive
A potentially massive NIAA realignment should be voted on the end of the calendar year because the 4A North, largely, cannot compete with the 4A South anymore. The talent (and enrollment) gap is too wide.
That is not the case for volleyball in the 4A North.
“All the teams in Reno are good this year. Everybody is well-coached. Everybody is well-trained,” Spanish Springs coach Alix Cirac said last week. “The level is higher than I think it’s been in probably, maybe, ever.”
Cirac, in her first year at Spanish Springs, is well-connected in the volleyball community as the Assistant Director for the Northern Nevada Junior Volleyball Club, more commonly known as NNJ. The argument could be made the NNJ is the largest reason Northern Nevada remains competitive with Southern Nevada in volleyball.
Over the weekend, 39 teams from around the region (including 8 of the 12 4A North programs) competed in the High Sierra Invitational Tournament at Bishop Manogue and Damonte Ranch. Three different 4A North teams finished in the top nine. The Miners won it for the second straight year, Galena took third, and last year’s state runner-up, Reno, finished ninth.
The 4A North has not won a state title since Spanish Springs hoisted the trophy in 2012. It’s been close though. The 4A North has placed a team in the state title match five of the last seven years. That’s likely the highest clip of all team sports played in Northern Nevada.
Nathan can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. His weekly column, ‘Shoup Shots,’ was named the best column in the state of Nevada (community division) by the Nevada Press Association. It runs in the hard copy of the Sparks Tribune every Wednesday morning. Nathan’s weekly radio show airs Fridays at noon on ESPN Radio 94.5 FM.