Pack needs to learn how to break on through

By Joe Santoro

Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .

 

The Wolf Pack was a better football team than Texas Tech last Saturday at Mackay Stadium. The Pack's Pistol offense outplayed Tech's Spread attack. Pack quarterback Colin Kaepernick outplayed Tech quarterback Graham Harrell. Tech coach Mike Leach tried to give the Pack the game with some goofy decisions. So why did the Pack lose by 16? The Pack lost because it still hasn't learned how to beat a good team. Call it a mental obstacle, a confidence thing, a mindset. It was the same story last year. The 2007 team showed time after time that it had no clue how to beat a good team anywhere (Fresno, Boise, Hawaii) or a mediocre team (Northwestern, San Jose State) on the road. What could have been an 11-2 season very easily turned into a 6-7 mess. This is simply a football program in search of a landmark, turn-the-program-around victory. Missouri would be such a victory.

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The loss of running back Luke Lippincott was the worst Wolf Pack news to come out of last Saturday's loss by far. This is coach Chris Ault's worst nightmare come to life. Ault's biggest goal in the Texas Tech and Missouri games was to come out of those two games healthy. Well, so much for that goal. Vai Taua and Brandon Fragger are very good backs. They will perform well and the Pack offense, with a few minor tweaks, will be just fine without Lippincott. But they must stay healthy. Taua and Fragger were the Pack's safety nets. Without Lippincott the Pack running game is now operating without a net and there are still 10 games to go.

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Tom Brady's season-ending injury is great for the NFL. The Patriots' 16-0 season a year ago, while good for the national media, was boring. Every Patriots blowout victory last year was more boring than the previous one. The Patriots are now interesting. The New York Jets and Brett Favre now have a legitimate shot to make the playoffs. There are now 20 teams in the AFC that can get to the Super Bowl. The NFL is fun again.

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Yes, we know that Matt Cassel has less college and NFL starts combined than Nick Graziano. My big, fat pet Samoyed has as many college and NFL starts combined as Cassel. But you just know that Cassel is going to lead the Patriots to a dozen wins this year, right? Of course you do.

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Congratulations to Andy Dominique for getting into the Wolf Pack Hall of Fame this year. The greatest home run hitter in Pack history helped turn the program around when he came to Reno from Southern California as a freshman in 1994. Dominique, who accomplished all of his amazing records in the tough Big West Conference, is the Pack's Ted Williams, homering in his final college at-bat into the trees at the Texas Tech regional in 1997. Here's hoping that Dominique is just the first of a long parade of baseball players into the Pack Hall of Fame, followed by Joe Inglett, Lyle Overbay, Justin Martin, Corky Miller, Jay Uhlman, Kevin Lake, John Patton, Rico Lagattuta, Darrell Rasner, Chad Qualls, Bobby Post, Mark Lewis, Ryan Church, Don Price, Matt Ortiz, Luke Drakulich and, well, that's enough to get the committee started for now.

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Well, that was quick. The NFL season, as far as the Bay Area is concerned, is now over. Yes, the Raiders and Niners are now on the clock.

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We all knew that the Raiders were young and were prone to making a ton of mistakes. But 41-14 to the Denver Broncos? It looks like the team doesn't want to play for coach Lane Kiffin. But what did you expect to happen after all of the rumors this summer about owner Al Davis wanting to fire Kiffin? Another blowout loss and the Raiders might have a new coach by the end of the month.

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The 49ers still should end up winning six or seven games. But can you get excited about an offense that features J.T. O'Sullivan, Shaun Hill and Jamie Martin at quarterback? Yes, that is the same Jamie Martin that blew a 35-point lead to the Wolf Pack at Mackay Stadium in 1991 while playing for Weber State. You remember 1991, don't you 49er fans? That's when you had real quarterbacks on the roster.

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Lance Armstrong is coming back to compete in the Tour de France in 2009. That's nice, considering the Tour de France without Armstrong is about as exciting as the PGA Tour without Tiger Woods. Did they even have a Tour de France this summer? Who won? Brett Favre?

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The entire nation outside of Ohio is going to be rooting for USC to beat Ohio State this weekend. Nobody wants to see the Buckeyes in the national title game again, right?

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The NFL is considering a proposal to make its regular season 18 games and its preseason just two games. We're all for charging fans regular-season prices for regular- season games and anything that reduces the amount of preseason games is a good thing. But an 18-game regular season? When is the regular season going to start? On Aug. 15? When will they end up playing the Super Bowl? In late February? There are already too many injuries in the NFL.

 

 

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