For Pack, time for something positive to happen | RecordCourier.com

For Pack, time for something positive to happen

Joe Santoro

Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .There is absolutely no logical, sane, believable reason for the Nevada Wolf Pack football team to be 0-5 right now. Over the coming weeks, if the losses continue to pile up, you will hear a ton of excuses coming from all corners of the football program explaining why the season fell apart. We've already heard some of them. Injuries, a tough schedule, the difficulty of learning a new offense and defense. Don't believe any of it. Look, nobody expected the Wolf Pack to win a national championship or even win the Mountain West this year. And nobody expected them to be 5-0 right now or even 4-1. But you should have expected this team to win six games and go to a bowl game this year. Former coach Brian Polian did not leave the talent cupboard bare. The schedule wasn't — and won't be from here on out — that daunting. The Pack should have at least two victories by now simply by showing up for the kickoff.

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Despite what happened in the first five games, it is not too late to salvage something positive out of this Pack football season. There is plenty of talent on this roster. And there are plenty of opportunities on the schedule for the Pack to start picking up some victories, starting Saturday night at home against Hawaii. Four (Hawaii, Air Force, San Jose State, UNLV) of the remaining seven games are at home. The Pack can win all four of those games. The road games (Colorado State, Boise State, San Diego State) will be difficult but it's not like its Alabama, Clemson and Oklahoma. If the Pack wins four of its last seven games that will be enough to send everyone into the off-season with some positive energy. Five wins would be reason for a parade down Virginia Street. Six or seven wins and a bowl invite as well as a berth in the Mountain West title game should make Jay Norvell the Mountain West Coach of the Year .

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The Wolf Pack is not the only football team in the Mountain West that is struggling and looking for answers right now. Boise State is 2-2 and has lost four of its last six games dating back to last year. The Broncos just lost 42-23 to Virginia for its worst loss at home since 2001. Virginia, by the way, was 2-10 last year and had lost 20 of its last 21 road games going into the matchup at Boise. Boise State, which plays BYU on Friday and San Diego State next week, is at its lowest point in about two decades. The Broncos have forgotten how to play defense and not even its blue turf scares anyone anymore. All of this is horrible for the Mountain West, which desperately needs a strong Boise State team for any national exposure and respect.

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This might sound like we are drinking the silver and blue Kool-Aid but it really shouldn't surprise you if the Pack wins the rest of its home games this year. Hawaii is historically an awful road team, San Jose State and UNLV don't play well anywhere and Air Force, which runs the ball on most every play, plays into the Pack's strength on defense. The rest of this season will be about coaching. Any staff, even a rookie staff, should be able to coach its football team to victories at home against Hawaii, UNLV, San Jose State and Air Force. That's how Chris Ault made his money for three decades. He beat mediocre-to-bad teams at home, almost every single time. Ault was 57-16 at home after moving the Pack to Division I-A in 1992. The rest of the Pack coaches since 1992 (Jeff Horton, Jeff Tisdel, Chris Tormey, Brian Polian and Norvell) have been 41-35 at Mackay.

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In less than month, if it hasn't happened already, nobody in northern Nevada will likely care about Wolf Pack football. That's because basketball season is just around the corner. The Wolf Pack men's basketball team should have a very interesting season this year. It might be a but unfair to expect the Pack to duplicate its 28-win season of a year ago but 22-25 wins in the regular season are a distinct possibility. Coach Eric Musselman has also done a great job once again of building a respectable non-conference schedule of teams that look much better on paper than they do on the court. It's how you build confidence among your players and fan base.

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Musselman has been in Reno for just two seasons but he has already set the bar extremely high. Anything short of a NCAA tournament appearance will be looked upon as a disappointment this year. Of course, that is unfair but that's what happens when you give a coach a million dollars a year and hope and pray that fans fill your arena every night. Musselman, though, can handle the pressure. If he didn't think he could win at Nevada year after year he would already be gone. It's why you give a guy like Musselman a million dollars. He can rebuild and reshape a roster every year into something exciting and keep the momentum going.

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Keeping the momentum going has always been football's problem at Nevada. Even Ault struggled with it during his career at times, namely after 1986 and 2010. Yes, it is more difficult to replenish a football roster year after year than it is in basketball but it can be done (see Boise before this year). The football team went 13-1 in 2010 but has been a huge disappointment ever since, going 37-44 without even one conference title. That 2010 season turned out to be a mirage that was built on an unusually talented senior class. This year has been a dumpster fire so far but keeping the momentum going and building something special over the long haul needs to be Norvell's top priority at Nevada. It's why you hire a guy in his 50s who has never been a head coach before. You expect him to stick around, see it through, fight through adversity and build something that will last.

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That National League staged a wild card playoff baseball game Wednesday night and a Reno Aces game broke out. Aces fans have seen that type of game many times over the past nine seasons. It featured 19 runs (11-8 Arizona Diamondbacks over the Colorado Rockies) and 30 hits and lasted nearly four hours. A total of 14 pitchers were used to throw exactly 300 pitches. That's the essence of Ace Ball right there. A lot of the same faces (Archie Bradley, Ketel Marte, David Peralta, Andrew Chafin, Robbie Ray and A.J. Pollock to name a few) that played a major role on Wednesday also did the same at Aces Ballpark over the years. The Rockies also had a number of players that used to fatten their stats at Aces Ballpark over the years as minor leaguers.