2022 review: The year in Wolf Pack sports

New point guard Kenan Blackshear helped the Nevada basketball team to a 12-3 record in the 2022 portion of the season.

New point guard Kenan Blackshear helped the Nevada basketball team to a 12-3 record in the 2022 portion of the season.

It was an eventful 2022 for Nevada athletics, which changed athletic directors, welcomed a new football coach, and — like every other program in the country — dealt with the give-and-take nature of the NCAA’s transfer portal.

Here’s the Nevada Appeal’s picks for the top Wolf Pack sports stories from the year:

1. The 10-game streak

Late in the first quarter of its game against Incarnate Word, the Nevada football team was 2-0 overall and held a 17-3 lead against the Cardinals, an FCS team playing on the road.

Not much went right after that.

The Wolf Pack went on to lose to UIW, 55-41, in the first loss of what turn out to be a season-ending 10-game losing streak. It was the first time ever — for a program that began in the 19th century — that a Nevada team had lost 10 straight times in the same season.

The numbers were not encouraging:

• Nevada was outscored, 345-165, over the final 10 games of the season. Seven of the 10 losses were by 14 or more points.

• The Pack was swept in its eight Mountain West games, losing by a combined 371-226.

• The 10 losses were the most by a Nevada team since 2000 (also 2-10).

• Nevada drew just over 89,000 fans to its six games at Mackay Stadium, an average of under 15,000.

2. The Knuth era ends

After overseeing one of the most successful eras in Nevada’s athletics history, Pack athletic director Doug Knuth was unceremoniously let go in April.

Knuth led Nevada from 2013 through early 2022 — his departure came nine years to the day of his hiring — and oversaw a department that overcame some early struggles to begin winning Mountain West titles. Overall, Wolf Pack teams combined to win eight MW titles (either regular season or tournament) under Knuth’s watch. Four of those came from former basketball coach Eric Musselman, a Knuth hire.

Knuth recently landed the AD position at Southern Utah, which is transitioning to the Western Athletic Conference.

3. The dreaded transfer portal

Coming off an underachieving 13-18 season, it didn’t take long for the Nevada basketball team to become decimated by the transfer portal. Within days of losing a heartbreaker to Boise State in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West tournament in March, the rumblings had begun about a fair number of Pack players looking for greener — or at least other — pastures.

In the end, Nevada lost its starting backcourt, its top big man, and others. The list of exits included: Grant Sherfield (Oklahoma), Desmond Cambridge Jr. and Warren Washington (both Arizona State), and Alem Huseinovic (Rice).

4. Pack turns to Wilson

Following Jay Norvell’s abrupt departure for Mountain West rival Colorado State in December of 2021, Nevada needed a new football coach.

The Wolf Pack went with its third straight first-time head coach — Norvell himself and Brian Polian were also new to the role — hiring former longtime Nevada assistant Ken Wilson away from Oregon. Following a one-off spring scrimmage, Wilson’s public debut came in August, when he led the Pack to a 2-0 start with wins at New Mexico State and at home against Texas State.

Wilson became the fifth head coach for Nevada football this century, following Chris Tormey (16-31 with the Pack), Chris Ault (234-108-1 in three stints), Polian (23-27), and Norvell (33-26).

5. Rempe hired to lead athletics

Nevada athletics entered a new era in June with the hiring of athletic director Stephanie Rempe, who became the university’s second female AD (following Cary Groth).

Rempe’s resume reads like a who’s-who of big-time college sports. She has held major positions with LSU, Texas A&M, Washington, and Oklahoma in an administration career that began in 1995.

She has already made a big impact with the Wolf Pack, hiring a new baseball coach (Jake McKinley), re-launching an intercollegiate skiing program and making her first personnel decision with the firing of soccer coach Erin Otagaki.

6. Basketball off to hot start

Coming off progressively worse records in his first three seasons — from 19-12 to 16-10 to 13-18 — and with one of his highly touted newcomers beginning the season on the injured list, not much was expected of Nevada basketball coach Steve Alford’s 2022-23 team.

The Wolf Pack, though, has defied expectations, getting off to a 9-3 start (through Tuesday) that includes wins over Tulane and Sam Houston State. Nevada has been able to depend on reliable scoring from Oregon State transfer Jarod Lucas (16.8 ppg), along with a solid all-around game from new point guard Kenan Blackshear (14.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg, team-high 62 assists).

Nevada’s first Mountain West game is Dec. 28 against Boise State, which has won nine straight games.

7. Women win 20

There haven’t been many 20-win seasons for Nevada women’s basketball, a program whose history has been filled with long dry spells.

That’s begun to change under head coach Amanda Levens, though, who led the Wolf Pack to the 2022 Women’s Basketball Invitational and a 20-13 final record. It was the Wolf Pack’s first 20-win campaign since the 2010-11 team went 22-11.

With the program moving in the right direction, Nevada also took steps to keeping Levens in place. In October, she signed a contract extension that runs through 2027.

8. Ader caps record-setting career

With no meets held at home, it was sometimes difficult for Nevada track star Nicola Ader to get the notice she deserved.

That didn’t stop her from putting the final touches on a standout career, though. Ader, who came to Nevada from Affolterbach, Germany, claimed her seventh All-America honor with a ninth-place finish in the heptathlon at the NCAA Championships in June.

For her career, Ader claimed three All-America honors in indoor track and four in outdoor championships. Her best single weekend came in 2019, when she placed at the NCAA outdoor meet in three events.

9. Bruce leaves — to become an assistant

The Wolf Pack baseball program enjoyed a run of success of under former coach T.J. Bruce, who posted four straight winning records (not counting the radically shortened 2020 season) and led Nevada to the NCAA regional round in 2021.

Bruce, though, chose to go from head coach to assistant by accepting a spot with TCU in June. He finished 171-166 with the Pack, winning Mountain West titles in 2018 and 2021.

10. Taua’s career ends after 59 games

It wasn’t quite the season he had hoped for, but Nevada running back Toa Taua wrapped up his long Wolf Pack career with a 144-yard performance against rival UNLV in November.

Taua was a workhorse ever since making his debut as a freshman in 2018. His career numbers — 3,997 yards rushing, another 1,192 receiving; 37 combined touchdowns — likely will not be matched by another Nevada back for some time, especially considering Taua played in 59 games. Taua’s rushing yardage is the sixth-most ever for a Pack career.


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