Rebels rally past in-state rivals

RENO, Nev. (AP) -- UNLV was trailing 9-3 when coach John Robinson was hit in the head by a plastic bottle or can as he left the field at intermission of a raucous interstate rivalry at Nevada.

It didn't hurt Robinson much, but it might have knocked some sense into his Rebels, who overcame a pair of early turnovers to come from behind and beat the Wolf Pack 16-12 Saturday night for the fourth year in a row.

"A lot of things didn't go right for us, but we got the win," said Robinson, whose Rebels (4-1) are off to their best start since 1984.

"It's a great win after trailing most of the game. ... I feel fortunate, but I also feel like we controlled the game," he said.

Kurt Nantkes passed for 255 yards and Dyante Perkins scored on a 29-yard run on fourth down with 12:10 remaining to help UNLV maintain possession of the Fremont Cannon.

"We've got a lot of veterans on this team, and that helps out a lot," Nantkes said. "We've played from behind so many times just this year that it's automatic for us."

Earvin Johnson caught 10 passes for 114 yards and Dillon Pieffer made field goals of 26, 33 and 27 yards for the Rebels, who grabbed two interceptions in the final four minutes to seal the victory before only the second sellout crowd (31,900) in University of Nevada history.

"As the game went on, the defense started to wear down and the holes began to open up for us," Johnson said.

Jeff Rowe, a sophomore from Reno, came off the bench to pass for 143 yards and moved the Wolf Pack (3-2) as far as UNLV's 43-yard line in the final minute before Adam Seward intercepted at the 37 with 37 seconds remaining.

Chance Kretschmer scored Nevada's only touchdown on a 6-yard run that put the Wolf Pack ahead 6-3 in the first quarter. But UNLV held him to 56 yards rushing, less than half his average.

"We were not able to run the ball at all tonight," said Nevada coach Chris Tormey, who is 0-4 against UNLV and is in his fourth year with the Wolf Pack.

"They threw the ball better than we did ... We have to learn from last year. We can't have a hangover the rest of the season."

Police arrested a 33-year-old Reno man accused of throwing an object at Robinson. The man, who is not a Nevada student, was booked into the Washoe County Jail on a charge of battery, campus police said.

Robinson told reporters he thought he was hit in the head by a plastic water bottle. But campus police said they had conflicting reports from witnesses.

"We found a plastic beer bottle, but other witnesses said it was a beer can. We found both in the immediate area and took them into evidence and will probably take finger prints," said Adam Garcia, director of University Police Services.

"It probably happened pretty quick for him (Robinson). It doesn't really matter if it was a beer can or plastic bottle. It was used as a weapon on a battery," he told The Associated Press.

John Lilley, president of the University of Nevada, said he apologized to UNLV President Carol Harter during the second half.

"This is an unfortunate act that mars an otherwise great night of competition on the field," Lilley said in a statement released by the school.

"We do not tolerate this kind of criminal behavior. ... We offer our sincere apologies to Coach Robinson."

Robinson said afterward that he didn't want to focus attention on the halftime incident, which came after police broke up a fight among fans in the opposite end zone during the second quarter.

"Everybody has made this game a negative, and it's not," he said. "It's a hell of a game. These people played great, and it could have gone the other way."

Nevada's defense forced two turnovers and held UNLV to only 34 yards rushing through the first three quarters as the Wolf Pack took a 12-6 lead into the final 15 minutes.

But Nantkes led the Rebels 91 yards in 12 plays, capped by Perkins' TD run up the middle on fourth-and-1, and threw a 45-yard pass to Michael Johnson to get to Nevada's 19 and set up Pieffer's 27-yard field goal to make it 16-12 with 4:08 remaining.

UNLV defensive end Chris Eagen intercepted a tipped pass to get the Rebels the ball back deep in Nevada territory with 3:55 left, and Perkins appeared headed for another touchdown before fumbling into the end zone for a touchback.

Rowe led Nevada on a 74-yard drive in the final 1:13 of the first half, including consecutive passes of 7, 11 and 32 yards to Tim Fleming to set up Damon Fine's 24-yard field goal with 3 seconds left to put the Wolf Pack ahead 9-3. He added a 21-yarder to give Nevada a 12-3 midway through the third quarter before Pieffer hit from 33 yards to cut the advantage to 12-6 with 3:35
left in the third.