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Joe Santoro

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October 11, 2013
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Time for Pack defense to find the stadium

Sports fodder for a Friday morning ... The Nevada Wolf Pack’s first bye week of the season couldn’t have come at a better time. But if the Wolf Pack is spending more than five minutes a day working on its offense this week, well, they are wasting their time. It is time for this Wolf Pack defense to step up. Yes, OK, it’s been time for the defense to wake up for the past two or three decades. But this time we mean it. The Pack has played six games and nobody has as many as 35 tackles. The Pack is allowing 38 points and 488 yards a game. And it’s not like they are playing Peyton Manning every week. The Pack, in fact, has spent the bulk of the season playing against backup quarterbacks who are afraid to throw the ball. But the way the Pack plays the run, they don’t have to throw it. The Wolf Pack spent the off-season changing coaches, changing uniforms and changing the locker room. They forgot to change the defense.

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Are we seeing the true personality of offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich? The Wolf Pack has attempted more than 100 passes combined the last two weeks. It is the first time they have lofted 50 or more passes in two consecutive games in the pistol era. The last time was in 2004 when Jeff Rowe, Travis Moore and Andy Heiser combined to throw 50 or more passes in back-to-back losses against UNLV and San Diego State. Don’t blame it all on the fact the Pack has been playing from behind lately. They’ve been behind before in the pistol era and never put the ball in the air this much. Rolovich, though, comes from pass-happy Hawaii. He insisted all offseason that he was going to remain true to the pistol and run the ball, even when times got tough. Well, times got tough the last two weeks and Rolovich turned quarterback Cody Fajardo into Zac Threadgill.

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Fajardo has passed for 782 yards combined the last two games. The most Colin Kaepernick passed for in two games combined was 767 against Louisiana Tech and Maryland in 2008. Threadgill, by the way, went for 818 in two games in a row in 2002 against BYU and Rice. There is nothing wrong with throwing the ball all over the field. And Fajardo runs the Pack’s passing offense better than Kaepernick ever did. Opposing defenses can’t stop it. Pack wide receiver Brandon Wimberly, it seems is open for eight or nine yards on every single play. But picking up yards and scoring points is not such a big trick in college football these days. Everybody does it. The trick is actually stopping the other team with the game on the line.

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Fajardo is amazing and the Pack likely wouldn’t win another game this year without him. That goes without saying. But the Wolf Pack’s Most Valuable Player this year has been running back Kendall Brock. Brock, who was overlooked by his hometown Fresno State Bulldogs coming out of high school and could barely get on the field the last two years at Nevada under head coach Chris Ault, leads the Pack in rushing (417 yards). Without Brock, the Pack would have to throw the ball 75 times a game. The other Pack running backs have been as consistent as the Northern Nevada weather. Brock, who stands five-foot-nothing and weighs a hundred-and-nothing, was considered too small by Ault to be an every down back. Heck, he was considered too small to be an every down wide receiver. Yes, he’s Rudy in silver-and-blue except that he can actually play.

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The NFL insists it is worried about player safety. That’s why they have created about a hundred ways to fine a guy for making what appears to be a legal tackle. But then they go ahead and force two teams every week on Thursday night to play on just three full days rest. Football games are not meant to be played 96 hours apart. Teams that play on Thursday are basically playing without practice because, well, they are still feeling the soreness and pain from the previous game. They can barely get the tape off their knees and feet on Sunday night before they have to tape up again for Thursday. Major League Baseball doesn’t even allow its starting pitchers to play on three days rest. Every player who plays on Thursday night should fine commissioner Roger Goodell.

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Will it take the Pittsburgh Pirates another two decades or so to get back to the postseason? It might. The Pirates have one outstanding player in Andrew McCutchen. The rest of the team is made up of one-dimensional players and cast-offs from other organizations. Yes, they have some good young starting pitchers and that alone should keep them competitive in the near future. But you can bet some of those good young pitchers will develop arm trouble, won’t get any better and, well, before you know it two more decades have gone by.

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Joe Girardi could have had his dream job. The Chicago Cubs would have given Girardi whatever he wanted to manage his hometown team. Girardi, though, elected to stay with the New York Yankees, a team that appears to be crumbling and headed into a dark period. Think Horace Clarke, Joe Pepitone, Jake Gibbs, Fritz Peterson, Gene Michael and Roy White of the late 1960s. Girardi, though, proved that you just don’t leave the Yankees if the Yankees want you. They are still the Yankees, no matter how bleak the immediate future appears. They still have all the money and resources in the world. That’s not a job you willingly give up. And the Cubs are still the Cubs even if you grew up with posters of Billy Williams and Ron Santo on your bedroom wall.

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Oct 11, 2013 12:47AM Published Oct 11, 2013 12:47AM Copyright 2013 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.