QB Stewart looks the same for Wolf Pack
September 16, 2016
Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .
Does the Nevada Wolf Pack have a quarterback controversy? And, if not, why not? It is obvious that the Wolf Pack coaching staff doesn't have any more confidence in starter Tyler Stewart than it did a year ago. The Pack resorted to trickery and using three quarterbacks against Notre Dame last week. And in the season opener against Cal Poly they tied one of his hands behind his back after a first quarter in which he led the team to three touchdowns, two through the air. The result is that Stewart looks as robotic and lifeless after two games as he did all last year. The offense has produced just two touchdowns and 19 points over its last seven quarters and one overtime. One of the touchdowns was engineered by backup quarterback Ty Gangi in garbage time in the 39-10 loss at Notre Dame. Gangi seemed to instill fire and passion into the offense and an element of excitement. He personally produced 113 total yards at Notre Dame on just six passes and runs combined. Stewart, by comparison, contributed 118 yards on 25 passes and runs. Gangi, who red-shirted his freshman year at Colorado two years ago before throwing and rushing for 3,303 yards and 37 touchdowns at Ventura College last year, plays a little like Cody Fajardo. At 6-foot-2, 205, they are the same exact size. Dare to dream, Pack fans.
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Stewart, who was brought to Nevada by Chris Ault and is now in his fifth year in the program, is the safe choice at quarterback. He's good enough to get the Pack eight, nine wins this year and get Brian Polian a contract extension with this cream puff schedule. The Pack have enough playmakers on the field this year so that the quarterback doesn't have to be the star. Stewart can beat the next seven teams on the Pack schedule by doing what he normally does, simply handing the ball off, throwing two dozen or so safe passes and making sound decisions. The last three games, though, are a different matter. He lost to all three (San Diego State, Utah State, UNLV) a year ago. That might be the time when things will get very interesting at quarterback.
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As expected, the Wolf Pack offense showed much more creativity and daring against Notre Dame than it did in the season opener against Cal Poly. Polian and offensive coordinator Tim Cramsey even inserted safety Asauni Rufus as a triple-option quarterback for a few plays. But it smacked of desperation and a look-at-me, unproven coaching staff that merely wanted to show on national television that it could draw up a few adventurous plays. Why expose the new triple-option package against Notre Dame? Did the Pack really think it was actually going to beat Notre Dame with their free safety running the ball? All they accomplished was almost getting their star free safety's head taken off by the Notre Dame defensive front. Also, by using Rufus against Notre Dame, the Pack exposed their surprise attack to all of the other teams on their Mountain West schedule. The element of surprise is now long gone. Why not save it for when the games (San Diego State, for example) really matter?
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It's time Cramsey shows why he got the Wolf Pack job. The Pack offense is a bit scattered and unfocused right now with Stewart and Gangi going in and out and a defensive player playing quarterback. Running back James Butler, one of the best offensive weapons in the Mountain West, also hasn't even had an opportunity to get any rhythm. None of the talented and experienced wide receivers or tight ends has more than five catches after two games. At least one of them should get that by halftime of every game. We are still giving Cramsey the benefit of the doubt. The first two games against Cal Poly and Notre Dame were always going to be an anomaly. But all we've learned about Cramsey so far is that he can steal a play from a FCS team (Cal Poly's triple option). It's time to instill some true creativity into this offense. We are coming off three frustrating seasons of watching Nick Rolovich struggle to run Ault's offense. The hiring of Cramsey brought with it the promise of something new and innovative. It's time to see some of the creativity and innovation.
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The Wolf Pack turned back the clock to 2009 last Saturday at Notre Dame. The similarities between the Pack's 35-0 loss in 2009 and the 39-10 loss on Saturday were eerie. The Wolf Pack offense had the ball for 26:20 in 2009 and had it 26:28 on Saturday. It piled up 307 yards of offense in 2009 and had 300 on Saturday. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick was 12-of-23 with two interceptions in 2009 and Stewart was 10-of-23 with one interception. The Pack moved the ball well on their first drive in 2009 before missing a field goal and on Saturday the Pack moved the ball efficiently on their initial drive before turning the ball over on a fourth-and-1 run. The Pack had 16 first downs on Saturday and 15 in 2009. The Pack fell behind 35-0 in 2009 and 32-0 on Saturday. A sellout crowd of 80,795 at Notre Dame Stadium attended both games. Notre Dame was vastly overrated in 2009 and just as overrated on Saturday.
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The game in 2009 might have one other similarity with the 2016 game. In 2009, the loss to Notre Dame came early in a breakout season for the Pack during which they later won eight games in a row and gave us a sneak peek at the greatness that was to come in 2010. We've seen no indication that the Pack is about to treat us soon with another 2010 landmark season but few also saw it coming after the loss at Notre Dame in 2009. That eight-game winning streak in 2009 might be duplicated this year. The Pack now play seven very winnable games in a row and could be 8-1 going into a Nov. 12 showdown with San Diego State at Mackay Stadium. Dare to dream, Pack fans.
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Colin Kaepernick played just three snaps for the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, handing the ball off all three times in the final two minutes as the 49ers beat the Los Angeles Rams 28-0. It was the perfect beginning to the season for the 49ers. Blaine Gabbert did nothing to lose his job as the starting quarterback, completing 22-of-35 passes for 170 yards and a touchdown and also running for 43 yards. The defense, as expected against the inept Rams, also played very well. An awkward, uncomfortable and potentially humorous situation was even avoided at the end of the game as the 49ers punted with under a minute to go, preventing Kaepernick from taking a knee to run out the clock just as he does during the national anthem before the game. But it's a long season. Awkward and uncomfortable seem to follow Kaepernick around these days. It will be interesting to see this weekend whether or not the Carolina Panthers fans don't just start an impromptu singing of the anthem if and when Kaepernick enters the game just to see if he doesn't immediately drop to one knee. Stay tuned.