Joe Santoro
For the Nevada Appeal

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November 8, 2013
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Friday Fodder: Football isn’t for the weak of heart

Sports fodder for a Friday morning...If you believe that Richie Incognito is the only bully in the NFL, well, go get your juice boxes and orange slices and get out to your daughter’s soccer game before the other mommies and daddies get upset. The NFL is bully heaven. Football at its highest level is a rough, violent, nasty game played by rough, violent and nasty men. NFL locker rooms are no place for the mentally weak, timid, sensitive and politically correct. They are policed by men like Incognito who, make no mistake, is loved by his teammates. Jonathan Martin quit on his team in mid-season, allowed a locker room issue to go public and therefore lost all respect from his teammates. That’s because bullies rule in the NFL. Bullies are on the roster and on the coaching staff. Heck, there are even bullies in the stands and in the parking lot wearing their favorite bully’s jersey. Football is not a juice box sport. It’s not for everyone.

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There are some disturbing things coming from the Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball team. Coach David Carter has somehow convinced them that being unselfish and sharing the ball is the best way to go. The end result, we fear, is that a lot of mediocre offensive players will be taking a lot of shots they couldn’t hit if they were the only one in the gym. That’s what happened a year ago when the program bottomed out. We saw Deonte Burton passing the ball to a bunch of guys who were afraid to shoot. Burton is the only alpha dog on this team. He has to be doing the majority of the shooting for this group to succeed. Sharing the ball is fine if you have a bunch of guys who are equal in talent. That’s not the case this year.

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The Wolf Pack, since Carter came to town 15 years ago, has never shared the ball more than in the 2000-01 season. That year 10 players took 100 or more shots. Nobody took more than Terrance Green’s 278. That team finished 10-18. Nick Fazekas took an average of 462 shots over his final three seasons. And he was surrounded by much more talent than Burton has been surrounded by in his Pack career. Burton took just 354 shots last year and the team was awful. He’s never taken more than 366 in any of his three seasons. He needs to up that by at least 100 this year.

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There will be an interesting reunion of sorts this weekend when the San Francisco 49ers and quarterback Colin Kaepernick meet the Carolina Panthers and linebacker Luke Kuechly. The last time Kuechly and Kaepernick met was in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco on Jan. 9, 2011. Kuechly intercepted one Kaepernick pass, helped hold the Pack quarterback to just 22 yards rushing and led everyone with 12 tackles. The Wolf Pack, however beat Kuechly’s Boston College Eagles, 20-13. Kaepernick and the 49ers will prevail again this weekend but don’t be shocked to see Kuechly make life miserable once again for the former Pack quarterback.

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We’ll find out exactly what the Wolf Pack football team is all about this year on Saturday at Colorado State and next weekend at home against San Jose State. The excuses have to end. The losing has to end. There’s no reason why the Pack can’t win both games and head into the season finale against BYU at Mackay Stadium on Nov. 30 needing one more win to become bowl eligible. The next two games speak to the heart, character, passion and drive of this football team. Whether they know it or not, most of this roster over the final three games is playing for its job on next year’s team. If that doesn’t motivate you, well, then go drink a juice box. Maybe Richie Incognito needs to visit the Pack locker room.

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At 178 yards a game, 3.7 yards a carry and just 15 touchdowns, this is arguably the Wolf Pack’s worst running game since the pistol offense was invented for the start of the 2005 season. You have to go back to 2002 to the last time the Pack averaged under four yards a carry. The Wolf Pack had the nation’s top rushing team in the nation in 2009 and they were No. 3 in both 2008 and 2010 and No. 8 in 2011 and 2012. Now they are number 59. There are many reasons for the decline. Quarterback Cody Fajardo has been running on one healthy knee since Week 2. The offensive line has been held together by glue, paste, paperclips and string. And even head coach Brian Polian admits there isn’t a legitimate feature running back on the roster. Chris Ault always knew that the best way to fix the Wolf Pack was to fix the pistol. And the best way to fix the pistol was to fix the run game.



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The Nevada Appeal Updated Nov 8, 2013 12:59AM Published Nov 8, 2013 12:59AM Copyright 2013 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.