Football: An ugly win is still a win |

Football: An ugly win is still a win

by Joe Santoro

This Nevada Wolf Pack football season, we’re sad to report, has turned into a beauty contest.

It’s not good enough to merely beat someone by three touchdowns. It’s not good enough to never trail in a game. Again. And it’s not good enough to simply squeeze into that itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka dot bikini. You better make the judges drool if you want to win a college football beauty contest these days.

And that is just not right.

The Wolf Pack should have been giddy about whipping the San Jose State Spartans 35-13 Saturday night on Homecoming. They were never really in jeopardy of losing the game. The offense moved the ball, the defense made big plays and the alumni and 20,636 fans went home with a big, fat satisfied smile on their faces. The Pack’s unbeaten season, after all, and its Top 25 ranking were safely tucked away for another week.

It was, by all reasonable measurements, a perfect night for a bunch of college football players, who just a few years ago were worrying about getting their driver’s license and dragging their dad’s shaver across their face for the first time. They had earned the right to feel pretty good about themselves after such a noble effort.

Well, not so much.

The Pack acted late Saturday night during their latest beauty contest as if they got dressed in the dark, walked out on the runway with a little barbecue sauce on their dress and then tried to win the talent portion of the contest doing shadow puppets in the Mackay Stadium lights.

And that is just not right.

“We didn’t play very well,” said quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who sounded like a kid forced to apologize to the neighbors for riding his bicycle on their lawn.

“This was kind of a bittersweet game,” safety Duke Williams said.

There is something wrong with college football (ya think?) when an undefeated team, a team that has never trailed in a game for as much as a second this year, feels bad after winning a game by 22 points.

Bittersweet? There should have been nothing bitter about this victory. It should have tasted like a bag of Halloween candy followed by a cherry Kool-Aid chaser.

The Pack did a ton of things they should have been proud of against the Spartans.

First of all, they held San Jose State to 13 points. Do we have to remind anyone that this defense held an opponent to 13 points or less just three times from 2007-09?

They ran the ball for 367 yards and five touchdowns. They passed the ball for 273 yards. Add that up and you have 640 total yards of offense.

They held San Jose State to 372 yards and picked off two passes. Anytime you hold an opponent under 400 yards in this age of wide-open, up-and-down-the-field football, you’ve done your job.

They were 10-of-13 on third down and stopped San Jose on 11 of its 15 third down plays.

The Wolf Pack should have left Mackay Stadium on this Homecoming night feeling like they were on their way to a date with the prettiest girl on campus. Well, OK, most of them actually were. But that’s beside the point. This team looked and sounded like they had not put on a good enough show.

And that’s just not right.

“We have to get a lot better,” Pack head coach Chris Ault said. “No question about it.”

Yes, we understand that the Pack players were simply repeating what they just heard Ault and their position coaches tell them in the post-game locker room. Players only tell the media what their coaches tell them. We understand that.

And it truly is a good thing that they didn’t come off like the Jersey Shore’s Snookie and The Situation, acting all disappointed and shocked when they weren’t awarded an Emmy for yet another thrilling hangover scene.

We know the Pack can play better than it did against San Jose State. We know they should have won this game by the five touchdowns the oddsmakers expected them to win by. We know this team didn’t get into the Top 25 by looking bored and disinterested at home against truly one of the worst teams in the nation.

We know all that. We also know that this was the perfect wake-up call for a team headed into a crucial stretch of games. We also know that this team is going to just explode on someone very soon.

So chalk up that less-than-inspiring performance against the Spartans to simply being bored. Nothing more. Nothing less.

“We want to play a perfect game everytime we step out on the field and when we don’t do that it’s disappointing,” Kaepernick said. “We can’t be satisfied by this win.”

Good. Those are all the right words to say. That’s what the leader of his football team should say.

But we also hope that this team knows that nobody but their demanding coaches are disappointed in them this morning. This program, after all, hasn’t resided in the Top 25 so long that 22-point victories are anything to take off the hook and toss back into the lake.

“We keep winning so we must be doing something right,” Kaepernick said.

Exactly. They are doing a ton of things correctly. And it’s important they be reminded of that right now before we all get too caught up in impressing the judges — none of whom could squeeze into that itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka dot bikini, by the way — week after week.

You can’t win a beauty contest every week. And if you don’t understand that Project Runway reference, how about this: Sometimes you hunt for a gigantic trophy to stuff and mount on your wall. Sometimes you hunt for the sport. And sometimes you simply hunt for something to eat.

This was just one of those evenings when the Pack went out for the sport of it. They needed the workout. The schedule said they had to play San Jose State so they went out, played the game and took home the victory.

Nothing more. Nothing less. End of discussion.

This game is not worth analyzing any further than that.