Jay Norvell cares about Nevada's history.
He made that clear from the day he was hired, and he's reinforced that with his actions every day since. Norvell has created the Wolf Pack Walk in which an alum attends Friday's walk-through and talks to the team about his experience at Nevada. He's formed a tight bond with Chris Ault, the patriarch of Nevada football. And he's spoken passionately about Nevada's rivalry game with UNLV, which will be played for the 45th time Saturday when the Wolf Pack hosts the Rebels.
"When you sign on, you sign on for this game," Norvell said. "You sign on for the winning tradition of Nevada football. Nevada football has been playing since 1898. That's a long time. There's been a lot of winning seasons in there. We had Coach Ault talk to the team and there's a difference between tradition and winning tradition. We have a winning tradition here at Nevada. Our kids have added to that the last couple of season, and this game is really important. When you sign on to a be part of Nevada football, you have a responsibility to represent this school in a certain way, to play a certain style of football and we have a responsibility to the people who came before us and played for this university."
Norvell has been a part of some of college football's top rivalries, including Texas versus Oklahoma, but the coach puts Nevada-UNLV atop his list.
"It's as important as any rivalry game I've been apart of," Norvell said. "I've been a part of some awesome ones. The Red River Rivalry (between Texas and Oklahoma). When I was at UCLA, we played USC. I was at Wisconsin and played for Paul Bunyan's Axe (against Minnesota). That was a good one. At Iowa, we had the Cy-Hawk Trophy when Iowa and Iowa State played. But this special. Playing for the Cannon and what it means to Northern Nevada and what it means to the tradition of this program is unique."
Norvell has been on both sides of the rivalry's outcome in his first two seasons at Nevada. In 2017, the Wolf Pack upset UNLV to deny the Rebels a bowl berth. In 2018, Nevada lost as a double-digit favorite after leading 23-0 in the first half.
"It's a great feeling when you win and it's an empty feeling when you lose," Norvell said. "After the game last year, I made our players stay on the field. I made them watch them take the Cannon. I made them watch (UNLV) celebrate because I think it's important to know that pain. You have to have pain to really appreciate victory and pain is a part of victory. It's an empty feeling when I walk out of my office and look at the end of the hall and (the Cannnon's) not there. It's something that motivates us.
"These are the games you remember, and these are the games people remember. All year long, they may not remember our other 11 games, but they'll certainly remember this one."
Below you can watch Norvell talk about what the UNLV game means to him and to his program.