Jay Norvell said on Monday that this Nevada Wolf Pack football season feels a lot like last year.
“We were 4-4 at this time last year, too,” the Wolf Pack coach said on Monday.
Not all 4-4 starts to a season, though, are created equal. Yes, the Wolf Pack was 4-4 after eight games a year ago just like this season but it headed into its ninth game of the year last year after an impressive 40-22 victory on the road at Hawaii. The first four losses last year included a promising 31-27 loss at home to Boise State as well as a hard-fought, competitive 21-3 loss at home to Fresno State when the Pack was playing its backup quarterback.
This year’s 4-4 start includes four losses by 26 points or more. The Pack heads into its ninth game of the season this Saturday at home against New Mexico (7:30 p.m. kickoff) on the heels of a 31-3 loss on the road at Wyoming last Saturday and a 36-10 loss at Utah State two weeks ago.
“Last year was very similar to this year,” Norvell continued. “We lost two tough games to Fresno State and Boise State last year and we improved.”
The Pack won four of its final five games last year, including a 16-13 overtime win over Arkansas State in the Arizona Bowl to finish 8-5.
“It feels the same as last year,” Pack punter Quinton Conaway said. “Everyone sees some of the losses this year that have been lopsided but we lost to Boise State and Fresno State last year and those were two tough losses. Last year we just stayed the course. We didn’t give up and this team this year won’t give up.”
The Wolf Pack (4-4, 1-3) trails first-place San Diego State (7-1, 4-1) in the West Division of the Mountain West. Hawaii (5-3, 2-2) and Fresno State (3-4, 1-2) are also ahead of the Pack in the division standings right now. The Wolf Pack will finish its regular season with home games against New Mexico and UNLV and road games at San Diego State and Fresno State.
“We have all the confidence in the world that we can run the table,” Pack quarterback Carson Strong said. “We’ve never lost confidence in ourselves.”
SEASON OF BLOWOUTS: This is the first season since 2000 that the Wolf Pack has lost four games or more by 25 or more points.
The Pack lost six games in 2000 by 25 points or more, falling to Oregon (36-7), TCU (41-10), Colorado State (45-14), UNLV (38-7), Fresno State (58-21) and Tulsa (38-3) on the way to a 2-10 season under first-year head coach Chris Tormey. Just one of the 10 losses in 2000 was by fewer than 20 points (a 21-7 loss at SMU).
The Pack this season has lost to Oregon (77-6), Hawaii (54-3), Utah State (36-10) and Wyoming (31-3). Norvell has now lost six games in his 30-game Pack head coaching career by 25 points or more.
Brian Polian lost four games in four seasons (2013-16) by 25 points or more. Jeff Tisdel lost six by 25 or more in four years (1996-99) while Chris Ault lost just nine games in his 343-game career by 25 or more points. Tormey lost a dozen games by 25 or more in four years (2000-03).
ATTENDANCE DOWN SLIGHTLY: Wolf Pack football attendance at Mackay Stadium is down an average of 989 fans a game this season compared to last year.
The Wolf Pack is currently 11th in the 12-team Mountain West with an average home attendance of 16,192. The only school trailing the Wolf Pack is San Jose State which is averaging 15,089 fans a game this year.
A crowd of 20,144 showed up at Mackay Stadium to see the Wolf Pack’s 34-31 victory over Purdue on Aug. 30 in the season opener. The Pack, though, has averaged just 14,874 over its last three home games against Weber State, Hawaii and San Jose State.
The Wolf Pack has two home games remaining this season, against New Mexico on Saturday and UNLV on Nov. 30. The Wolf Pack needs to draw 38,320 fans to the New Mexico and UNLV games combined to equal last year’s average attendance of 17,181.
The Wolf Pack averaged 16,722 fans a game in Norvell’s first season as head coach in 2017. Norvell’s Wolf Pack have attracted crowds of 20,000 or more just three times over 16 home games. That list includes Oregon State (20,462) and Boise State (21,431) last season and Purdue this year.
Brian Polian’s Wolf Pack teams from 2013-16 attracted 18 crowds of 20,000 or more over 24 home games. The first 16 home games during the Polian era had crowds of 20,000 or more.