Wolf Pack needs to win at Hawaii | RecordCourier.com

Wolf Pack needs to win at Hawaii

The time for excuses is over. The Nevada Wolf Pack have spent the first four weeks of this season telling us who is injured and how many frequent flyer miles they've piled up. They've told us how difficult their schedule is and how hard it is to break in new starters on defense and learn a new system on offense. They've reminded us that Notre Dame is Notre Dame, that Purdue has Big 10 players, that FCS teams are just as good as FBS teams and that every Division I team, no matter how bad its record might be year after year, has scholarship players on its roster. And they reminded us yet again that the Wolf Pack simply cannot go a month in a row without losing to a team it should beat. It happened again last week at Purdue. It's happened repeatedly every year since the 13-1 miracle season of 2010. That's why Nevada is 34-34 since it beat Boston College in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in January 2011. But now it's time for it to stop happening. It's time to beat the bad teams. All of the bad teams.

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The Wolf Pack need to win their next four games against Hawaii, Fresno State, San Jose State and Wyoming. All four teams were dreadful last year and aren't much better this year. Yes, we understand they all have scholarship players. But if this Pack team wants us to take them seriously this year they have to win all four and start the Mountain West portion of their schedule at 4-0. The time has come for the Pack to start piling up the wins as easily as it piles up those frequent flyer miles. We are now in Year Four of the Brian Polian Experiment. This is the year when the program was supposed to start beating all of the bad teams on its schedule. Well, here comes four bad teams in a row. Beat them all. Show us your 6-2 record overall and 4-0 in conference play in the first week of November. No more excuses.

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We knew there would be growing pains on the Pack defense. You don't rebuild your entire front seven and not stub your toe in the first month of the season. The offense, though, has been the biggest disappointment so far. The offense has played well for just one full game (Buffalo) this season. We expected more. We expected new offensive coordinator Tim Cramsey with his electric Big Sky Conference offense to come into Mackay Stadium and light up the new scoreboard. We expected Cramsey to breathe new life into the stale and predictable pistol offense. We've seen flashes. The Pack offense was great in the first quarter against Cal Poly. It was dominating for the entire game against Buffalo. They moved the ball early against Notre Dame and Purdue. Quarterback Tyler Stewart has been efficient. Running back James Butler has punched defenses in the mouth. The receivers have, at times, caught everything. But none of them have done those things consistently yet. The Wolf Pack defense isn't good enough to overcome an inconsistent offense. If the Pack is going to beat all the bad teams on its schedule — and there are a lot of them — it needs to score points. The offense needs to control the ball and keep the defense off the field. The good news it that it all can still happen. That's the beauty of playing teams like Hawaii, Fresno State, San Jose State and Wyoming.

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There has been a disturbing trend so far with this Pack football team. It seems to run out of gas in the second half. The Pack has been outscored 56-24 in the third and fourth quarters combined this season. That's coaching, conditioning and leadership. The Pack has played four games and has yet to win a third and fourth quarter combined in any of them. Are they getting out-coached? Are the players on the opposing teams in better condition than the Pack? The Wolf Pack, we've been told, is built around a clock-eating, physical ground game combined with a safe and efficient passing game that is designed to grind teams down. That hasn't happened yet. It's the Pack that always seems to run out of gas after halftime. That needs to stop.

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Quarterback Tyler Stewart, no matter how often you see backup Ty Gangi in the game, is not the Wolf Pack's problem. Stewart has been fine. Yes, he's not the type of guy who will simply put a team on his back and carry it to victory. But the Pack can win with him. Stewart has completed 65-of-96 passes for 640 yards and five touchdowns and has been intercepted just once. All Stewart needs to do in this offense is take the snap from center, turn and hand off to James Butler or throw a short, safe pass to a wide receiver. He does all those things pretty well. His numbers are good enough. And they would be even better if he didn't have to come out of the game now and then. It's also probably not doing his rhythm and confidence any good by taking him off the field in favor of Gangi. Two-quarterback systems rarely work if only because it puts doubt in the minds of everybody. If Stewart is the offense's leader, after all, then why is he over there on the bench? The Pack seems to be alternating quarterbacks simply for the sake of change. The result has been an inconsistent offense. Stewart isn't playing badly. He doesn't deserve to get yanked off the field.

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Do the San Francisco Giants even deserve a playoff spot? The Giants have been stuck in the mud all season long but they are still very much in the hunt for a wildcard spot as we approach the final weekend. How do you explain it? The Giants, heading into Thursday's game against the Colorado Rockies, were 6-10 since Sept. 11. They have not won two games in a row since Sept. 15-16. The only reason they are still in the hunt is because the team they are competing against for the second wildcard has been just as bad. The St. Louis Cardinals are 7-11 since Sept. 10 heading into Thursday. That isn't exactly the definition of a playoff push. Then again, all year long we've talked about the magic of the even-numbered year for the Giants. Maybe this is form the magic is taking this year. Maybe the magic is that they can't lose out on a playoff spot no matter how badly they play.

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Who is going to beat the Chicago Cubs? The Cubs have seemed to be on cruise control all season long. It feels like they clinched the National League Central back in May. Take away a 5-15 stretch in late June and early July and we would be talking about the Cubs as one of the greatest teams in history. Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant deserve to share the Most Valuable Player award. A pitching staff of Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks and John Lackey, to go along with closer Aroldis Chapman, should fly through the postseason. Who can beat the Cubs? Well, the Cubs. A century of losing is going to start to weigh pretty heavily in the playoffs.

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After three weeks we have just five undefeated teams in the NFL and all five are doing it the same way. With defense. The Philadelphia Eagles are starting a rookie quarterback (Carson Wentz) from North Dakota State. The Minnesota Vikings lost their quarterback (Teddy Bridgewater) and running back (Adrian Peterson) to injury. The Denver Broncos are playing someone named Trevor Siemian at quarterback. The New England Patriots have gone from Jimmy Garoppolo to Jacoby Brissett at quarterback. Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens are unbeaten? Only two running backs on all of the undefeated teams combined has 200 or more yard rushing (New England's LeGarrette Blunt and Denver's C.J.Anderson). So maybe a dynamic offense isn't all that important anymore. You win in the NFL with defense. The Eagles have allow just 27 points all year. The Vikings have allowed just 40, the Ravens have given up 44, the Patriots have given up just 45 and the Broncos, who probably have the best defense of all, have allowed just 57.