Football: After 36 days, what can we expect to see from the Wolf Pack? |

Football: After 36 days, what can we expect to see from the Wolf Pack?

by Joe Santoro

The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl seems to have all the intensity and passion of a Nevada Day parade through downtown Carson City.

Lovely setting, a few floats and marching bands, friendly faces, tasty treats to munch on, a lot of smiles, handshakes, pats on the back and, well, everyone is just dang proud to be there.

Both the Nevada Wolf Pack and Boston College Eagles football teams will even be standing on the same sideline Sunday night at San Francisco’s AT&T Park like they are sharing a table in a northern Nevada casino buffet.

How nice. How friendly. This isn’t a football game, it’s a happy-go-lucky episode of Sarah Palin’s Alaska.

Actually, a polite game of football after five days of fancy dinners, luncheons, brunches, a wine tasting, a San Francisco Bay cruise and tour of Alcatraz, after all, might have less sincerity and honest emotion than a smiling Sarah hunting for caribou with her hairstylist, makeup artist and television cameras close by.

That’s not hunting and this isn’t football. They are both just cable television programming for a cold winter night. Nobody gets hurt (except the caribou) and everyone goes home happy.

How nice. How friendly. How weird.

This college football version of an international soccer friendly appears to have all the fervor of a two-foot putt to win a Tuesday morning ladies golf match. And after it’s over, after the television cameras are turned off, after the last message is shown about how the good, kind folks at Kraft are feeding the hungry, everyone will just meet for coffee and pie.

That lack of football fire is what concerns me most about this game for the Wolf Pack. This Pack team, after all, has had a problem of playing-while-bored this year. They strolled their way through snooze-fest victories over Eastern Washington, BYU, San Jose State, Utah State, New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech. They fell asleep on their long flight to Hawaii.

Those snore games brought out the worst in the Pack. Oh, they still won all but one of them.

That’s how good this Pack team is after all. They are the handsome guy in the room who always gets the girl no matter how many jokes he tells in bad taste or how many beers and potato chips he spills down the front of his shirt.

So we’re really not worried that the Wolf Pack won’t win on Sunday night. The Wolf Pack is going to put on a show Sunday night. Think college football’s People’s Choice Awards. Colin Kaepernick as Johnny Depp, Vai Taua as Taylor Lautner and Dontay

Moch as Zac Efron. The ESPN folks might even ask Chris Ault who he is wearing.

OK, OK, I know, I know. I’m going a little stir crazy. But that’s what waiting 36 days for a football parade has done to me. I’m starting to fantasize about what this game means. But I can’t help it.

That’s just the inner fan inside me looking for something to grasp onto with this game.

This just doesn’t feel like a football game. It doesn’t feel like a Pack football game.

Where are the years of frustration, anger, hate and, yes, a little jealousy built up like the Boise State game?

Where’s the we’re-going-to-stick-it-to-those-wine-cooler-sipping-Bay-area-boys feeling like the Cal game?

Where’s the so-the-Mountain-West-Conference-isn’t-good-enough-for-you-anymore,-huh? beat down the Pack gave to BYU?

Where’s the you’re-not-in-Fort-Collins-anymore-Toto whipping the Pack gave to Colorado State?

Where’s the don’t-even-bother-to-look-at-our-blue-cannon stare the Pack gave UNLV?

Where’s the we-can-beat-you-even-with-Kaepernick-and-Taua-on-the-bench shrug the Pack gave to Utah State?

Where’s the have-fun-in-the Division I-AA-WAC-in-two-years look the Pack gave to San Jose State, Idaho, New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech?

Where’s the do-you-really-think-you-can-beat-us? snub the Pack handed to Eastern Washington?

Where’s the you-should-have-recruited-Kaepernick beating the Pack handed to Fresno State?

There’s none of that in this game.

There’s no hatred. There’s no rivalry. There’s nothing to sink our fan teeth into.

In fact, it is impossible to even dislike, let alone hate, the Boston College Eagles.

If you love college football, you should love the Eagles. They are an old school football team who bases everything they do on stopping the run. The Eagles play as if it is 1952 and the cheerleaders are wearing skirts down to their ankles.

Their two poster boy linebackers, Luke Kuechly and Mark Herzlich, are the second coming of Dick Butkus and Ray Nitschke. These two guys could play in leather helmets. Herlich is a cancer survivor and has also overcome a broken foot and a broken bone in his hand over the past year. There will be a movie made about this kid someday.

How can you hate Boston College? This is the same school that once had cute little Dougie Flutie running around the field performing miracles. He was Chris Vargas before Chris Vargas was Chris Vargas.

How can you hate Boston College? Their head coach, Frank Spaziani, is a coaching lifer, with an awesome nickname (“Coach Spaz”), who waited a dozen years before getting his chance to run the Eagles.

Spaziani came to Penn State to play for Joe Paterno as a quarterback and then developed into a linebacker/ defensive end on the Nittany Lions’ Gator Bowl and Orange Bowl teams in the late 1960s. How can you not love a quarterback who can turn himself into a linebacker?

How can you hate Boston College? They are just a 7-5 team happy to get an all-expenses-paid vacation on winter break in San Francisco. Heck, most of them will probably show up at AT&T Park Sunday night wearing their newly purchased Golden Gate Bridge and Fisherman’s Wharf sweatshirts with pictures of themselves on their cell phone riding in a cable car.

How nice. How cute.

How can you hate those guys? You can’t.

That’s why the Pack players, as well as Pack fans, have to create the motivation for this game.

And the motivation has absolutely nothing to do with the Boston College Eagles.

The real opponent is fantasy.

When your mom tucked you in at night when you were a kid she didn’t tell you that the giant picked up poor Jack, broke both his arms and threw him down the beanstalk head first, did she? She didn’t tell you that when the prince kissed Sleeping Beauty, she opened her eyes, took one look at the prince and said, ‘Uh, give me another 15 minutes, will ya, babe?’ She didn’t tell you the big, bad wolf bit off Little Red Riding Hood’s head.

Did she?

Of course not. She gave you a happy ending.

Well, this is the Wolf Pack’s fairytale season. This is the season all Pack fans have waited for their entire lives. And it is important that the Pack tucks this season into bed with a happy ending.

That’s the only goal Sunday night. We didn’t wait 36 long days and nights just to bring us all back to reality, did we?

Of course not.

We want a happy ending, dang it.

That’s the motivation Sunday night.

So let’s get this parade started.