Sports Fodder: Pack defense ultimately exposed
December 21, 2012
Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .
Confidence in the Nevada Wolf Pack football program is rapidly falling to Chris Tormey levels. You could argue that this was Chris Ault’s most disappointing and frustrating season of his 28 years as head coach. The team lost five of its last six games for the first time in his career. They went 2-4 at home, the first time an Ault-coached team finished under .500 at home. They finished fifth in the Mountain West, just the fourth time in Ault’s career he’s finished fifth or lower. The Pack has been to eight bowls in a row but has lost six of those games. They haven’t won a bowl game or a game with the conference title on the line in six of the last seven years.- Take away a couple great seasons (2005 and 2010) and this program has been stuck in the mud of mediocrity ever since its victory in the Las Vegas Bowl in 1996.
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The Wolf Pack defense allowed 443 yards and 34 points a game this year. It is the most points they’ve allowed since 2004 and the most yards since 2001. Since entering Division I-A (FBS) football in 1992, it is the fifth most points they’ve allowed per game in a season and the fifth most yards. That just should not happen with a dynamic offense that chews up yardage and the clock like the Pack’s pistol. Arizona had the football in the New Mexico Bowl for just 20:50 and still scored 49 points and gained 578 yards. The loss to Arizona, though, might be the best thing to have happened to the Pack all year. A victory in the bowl game might have masked the serious, career-killing problems on defense. You can’t ignore the problems now.
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The Pack offense had to be nearly perfect this year for the Pack to win. It was like handing the other team points each time the Pack settled for a field goal attempt or turned the ball over. The Pack attempted 13 field goals this year and the opponent scored seven touchdowns and kicked a field goal on the very next possession. The Pack also turned the ball over 22 times this year and promptly allowed eight touchdowns and two field goals either on the turnover itself or the very next possession. Teammates are supposed to pick each other up when one of them stumbles. The Pack defense picked up its offense this year and simply dropped it down an uncovered sewer.
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We still don’t know a thing about this year’s Wolf Pack men’s basketball team. The victory at Washington was nice but there have been far too many ugly wins over bad teams — and a few ugly losses to bad teams — to get all that excited. The next two games — tonight against San Marcos (is that a Club Med getaway?) and Yale next Friday — won’t tell us anything either. This Pack season is sort of like waiting for the groundhog to peaks its head out of its hole. We really don’t know what they’re going to find.
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Are we heading into a golden age of NFL quarterbacks? Former Pack quarterback Colin Kaepernick is just one of a handful of amazing young quarterbacks in their first or second year along with Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Andy Dalton, Andrew Luck and Brandon Weeden. And then there are the guys with a few years under their belt or in their prime like Aaron Rodgers, Tony Romo, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Matt Stafford, Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, Philip Rivers, Josh Freeman, Michael Vick, Jay Cutler, Eli Manning, Carson Palmer and Matt Schaub. And don’t forget Peyton Manning, who still might be the best of all. There are so many good quarterbacks now that a guy like Alex Smith, who is fourth in the NFL in passer rating, can’t even get on the field.
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It looks like we’ve finally reached the point in major league baseball where the mid-major markets can now compete with the big boys. The Toronto Blue Jays are conducting a one-team fantasy draft this off-season and the Kansas City Royals are giving away top prospects for a high-priced pitcher while the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox look like a washed up former Oscar winner doing guest spots on Jersey Shore. Maybe the Mayans are right. The end of the world must be near. Or maybe it’s just the end of ESPN’s all Red Sox and Yankees all the time world. We can only hope.
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Andy Reid and Rex Ryan should be the first NFL head coaches fired after the season. And Lovie Smith, Jason Garrett, Ken Whisenhunt, Romeo Crennel and Norv Turner should join Reid and Ryan on the unemployment line. OK, yes, no former NFL head coach is going to be seen on the unemployment line anytime soon. These guys make enough money in one year now to feed, clothe and house their families for decades. But the vision of a former NFL coach picking up his unemployment check is a comforting thought if you’re a fan who has suffered through years of watching their teams, isn’t it?