Joe Santoro

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October 11, 2007
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Wolf Pack defense can only get better


Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .

Forget about the Wolf Pack's quarterback situation. The quarterback position is the least of the Pack's problems heading into Sunday night's game at Boise State. Chris Ault, after all, could toss a pair of shoulder pads on Alphie and turn him into a productive quarterback. The problem is on defense. If the Pack defense plays like it did a week ago, well, ESPN just might ask all women and children in the viewing audience to turn away from their television sets Sunday night.

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This defense is on its way to becoming the worst in Ault's career at Nevada. The Pack is 119th in the nation in rushing defense at 268 yards a game allowed. The Pack is 103rd in the nation in scoring defense at 34.8 points a game allowed. The Pack has forced just five turnovers all year. It has just seven quarterback sacks. Basically, this defense has yet to show up this year.

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The frustrating part of all this is that this defense shouldn't be this bad, not with lineman Matt Hines and linebackers Joshua Mauga and Ezra Butler on the field. Those three are among the best in the nation at their respective positions. So things will get better. If not, well, the Pack men's basketball team is starting practice this week. Hope is just around the corner.

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A year ago, the Wolf Pack football team closed the regular season with shutouts in two of its last three regular season games. The Pack allowed just 128 rushing yards a game a year ago and sacked the quarterback 37 times. The Pack defense also allowed 10 or fewer points six times. Nobody was particularly worried about the defense coming into the 2007 season. All of the concerns were on whether or not Nick Graziano or Colin Kaepernick could become a legitimate starting quarterback. After five games, the Pack has gone from Nick to Kaepernick without missing a beat on offense and the defense is still chasing running backs into the end zone. So much for all those pre-season worries.

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A week ago Kaepernick turned into the Wolf Pack's best relief quarterback since Chris Vargas in the early 1990s. But piling up big numbers in a game your team is losing by nearly 30 points is not the same as walking onto that stupid blue turf at Boise State and winning. Boise simply does not lose to Western Athletic Conference teams at home. And the Pack has never fared well at Boise. Ever. Not even Alphie is picking the Pack to pull off the upset this week.

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But, hey, anything can happen in college football this season. The Cal Bears, after all, are No. 2 in the country. South Florida is fifth. People in Florida couldn't even tell you how to find South Florida. Missouri is 11th in the nation, Kentucky is 17th, Illinois is 18th and Kansas is 20th. And USC, a team most experts would have picked to be the NFC's representative at the Super Bowl if it was in the NFL, is 10th. Nothing makes sense in college football this year. It's awesome. So why couldn't the Pack beat Boise State?

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Graziano, the Pack's starting quarterback gets injured, and Kaepernick comes on and tosses four touchdowns and passes for nearly 400 yards. Alex Smith, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback gets hurt, and, well, Trent Dilfer is the best the red and gold can come up with. That's the beauty of having a roster nearly twice as large in college football as they have in the NFL. You can store away capable backups in college football. In the NFL, all you can do is hide overpriced, washed up veterans. Don't believe me? Vinny Testaverde just signed with the Carolina Panthers this week.

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Are you excited about an Arizona Diamondbacks-Colorado Rockies series? Will anyone watch a World Series that involves the Cleveland Indians and either the Diamondbacks or Rockies?

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The Denver Broncos should send the Rockies a giant gift basket. Nobody in Denver has noticed how horrible the Broncos are this year because everyone is caught up in the Rockies amazing postseason run.

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What, exactly, is the point of playing a college football game on Sunday night in the middle of October against NFL football and the major league baseball playoffs? Does ESPN actually believe that anyone outside of Boise and Reno will be watching the Pack and Broncos? And, if the first month of the season - and the last seven games of this rivalry - are any indication, not even Reno will be watching past the middle of the third quarter.

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Should the New York Yankees get rid of Joe Torre? Of course they should. It's not because Torre can't manage anymore. That has nothing to do with it. It's because the Yankees need to start over. They need to get rid of Torre as well as Alex Rodriguez, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Roger Clemens, and head in a new direction. It's time to blow up the Bronx and build this franchise around young talent like Robinson Cano, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Melky Cabrera. Toss those young players around the likes of Derek Jeter and Bobby Abreu and you'd still have a playoff contender.

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Who should the Yankees hire to replace Torre? Well, Tony LaRussa would be a bad choice. LaRussa couldn't even get along with the easygoing St. Louis media this year. What do you think he'll do in New York. Also, LaRussa has always worked under upper management that let him do what he wanted to do. That's certainly not going to happen in New York. The Yanks should hire Joe Girardi or Don Mattingly.

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OK, it's time all television announcers stop using the phrase "that's just Manny being Manny" each time a highlight of Manny Ramirez pops onto the screen.

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Don't look now, but the Oakland Raiders are in first place. When you play defense anything can happen. Listening, Wolf Pack?

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It's time Trent Green listens to his doctors and retires. Green, whose brain has turned into oatmeal because of countless concussions, should have retired two years ago. But the guy comes back to quarterback one of the worst teams in the NFL and what happens? His head gets scrambled once again - surprise, surprise - by a defensive lineman nearly twice his weight. Give Steve Young credit for knowing when to get out.

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The next time someone tells you that Olympic athletes are so pure and innocent and how wonderful it is that they compete for the love of their sport and for the honor of their country, just give them a two-word answer. Marion. Jones. The only innocent and pure athletes you'll find these days pile into the back of their mom's station wagon every weekend and drink juice boxes and eat orange slices at halftime.



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The Nevada Appeal Updated Oct 11, 2007 10:38PM Published Oct 11, 2007 03:00AM Copyright 2007 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.