Joe Santoro
For the Nevada Appeal

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September 27, 2013
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Friday Fodder: Pack will need toughness against Falcons

Sports fodder for a Friday morning...No self-respecting Division I Football Bowl Subdivision team should ever lose to the Air Force Falcons at home. The Falcons play no defense. They can blast a jet out of the sky but throw a football their way and, well, they run for cover. High school teams have bigger offensive and defensive lines than the Falcons. And Amos Alonzo Stagg, Knute Rockne and Pop Warner ran more sophisticated offenses. All you have to do to beat Air Force is line up and match their grit and toughness. And that is the problem. We found out exactly how tough the Pack was a year ago when it lost at Air Force 48-31. We’ll find out how tough the Wolf Pack truly is this season on Saturday at Mackay Stadium.

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Wolf Pack offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich gave a masterful display of sleight of hand and trickery in nursing backup quarterback Tyler Stewart through last Saturday’s victory over Hawaii. Stewart, at times, even looked like he knew what he was doing. You could barely see Rolovich’s lips moving. And the Pack could likely beat Air Force (and maybe UNLV, San Diego State, Colorado State and San Jose State) with Stew-ovich at quarterback. But, make no mistake, if this Wolf Pack team is going to play in its ninth consecutive bowl game in December, it needs Cody Fajardo taking the snap from center. You can only perform sleight of hand so many times before people start looking up your sleeve.

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The Wolf Pack schedule looks very forgiving this year. Boise State, BYU, San Diego State and San Jose State aren’t as good as advertised. Colorado State and UNLV are always beatable. So there is just one opponent remaining — Fresno State on the road — that should scare the Pack. And the Bulldogs don’t play any defense. A 9-3 or 8-4 regular season is very possible for this Pack team if Fajardo stays on the field. Of course, the Wolf Pack hasn’t played consistent and efficient football since it beat Boston College in January 2011. And Fajardo has not shown the ability to stay on the field since high school. But things can change. The Pack went 13-18 from Nov. 25, 2006, through Sept. 25, 2009, and then went 21-3 over the next 16 months because a kid named Colin Kaepernick stayed on the field. It can happen again.

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The Wolf Pack men’s basketball team opens practice today. Is there reason to believe that improvement will be made on last year’s 13-19 season (3-13 in the Mountain West)? The success of this year’s team depends on whether or not Deonte Burton can put this team on his back. The senior needs an entirely different mindset this year. Forget making your teammates better. Forget distributing the ball to teammates who can’t shoot. For this Pack team to flirt with 20 victories and get back to a postseason tournament, Burton needs to take over this team. He needs to score. He needs to play defense. He needs to coach. He needs to rebound. He needs to sell popcorn, tickets and park cars in the Lawlor Events Center garage.

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Is Peyton Manning the best quarterback in the history of the NFL? Well, he is right now. The 37-year-old is on pace to throw for over 6,000 yards and 60 touchdowns. And his Denver Broncos will go 16-0. Manning is among the top three along with Brett Favre and Dan Marino in most of the important career statistics. So he was already in the best-quarterback-in-history conversation going into this season. Nobody expects 6,000 yards and 60 TDs but 5,000 and 50 are a distinct possibility. And if he completes the fantasy and wins a Super Bowl, you might have to give him the mythical title of best in history.

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The elephant in the room with the Broncos that nobody is talking about is that they are a neck injury away from having to play Brock Osweiler or Zac Dysert at quarterback. Osweiler and Dysert as insurance for Manning is like starting Brandon League in a World Series Game 7 if Clayton Kershaw gets injured. The abundance of inadequate backup quarterbacks in the league is the NFL’s elephant in the room that nobody talks about. The completely unnecessary salary cap has prohibited most teams from having a capable backup quarterback on the roster. The days of Joe Montana and Steve Young competing for playing time on the same roster are long gone.

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The first NFL coaches to get fired immediately after the regular season ends right now are Mike Shanahan of the Washington Redskins, Leslie Frazier of the Minnesota Vikings and Greg Schiano of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Frazier has Adrian Peterson and he couldn’t beat a Cleveland Browns team last week that was conducting a fire sale of its best players and not even trying to win. Shanahan has completely mishandled Robert Griffin III. And Schiano, well, he might not last in his job past Monday.

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UNLV head coach Bobby Hauck might be saving his job. The Rebels beat two awful teams (Central Michigan and Western Illinois) the last two weeks and might win the next two weeks against two more awful teams (New Mexico and Hawaii). Don’t you just love college football? There are always awful teams ahead on the schedule to save the coach’s job and prolong the misery of the fans.


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The Nevada Appeal Updated Sep 27, 2013 12:11AM Published Oct 1, 2013 04:42PM Copyright 2013 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.