Clock is ticking on Wolf Pack coach | NevadaAppeal.com

Clock is ticking on Wolf Pack coach

Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .

The clock is now ticking on Brian Polian’s Nevada Wolf Pack coaching career. It’s the type of maddening ticking that keeps you staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night. Lose to Purdue. Tick, tock. Lose to Hawaii. Tick, tock, tick, tock. The Wolf Pack is now 2-3 when it should be 4-1. Purdue and Hawaii are awful football teams. This wasn’t losses at UCLA and Florida State. If you listen to Polian, though, the Pack lost because they had to sit on a plane for an extra hour or two and because Purdue and Hawaii had an extra week in which to prepare for the game. If the Wolf Pack loses to Fresno State this Saturday at Mackay Stadium, Polian will blame it on the altitude, the glare from the giant new scoreboard and the Italian festival downtown.

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This, Wolf Pack fans, is what rock bottom feels like. Starting with the third quarter against Purdue through the third quarter against Hawaii, a total of five consecutive quarters, the Wolf Pack was outscored 52-3. They were down 38-3 going into the fourth quarter at Hawaii. That must have been one heck of a plane ride to Honolulu. Polian is now in Year Four at Nevada and he suddenly finds himself reevaluating everything he knows about the coaching profession. His football team is a mess. These are his players now. These are his coordinators. This is his schedule. These are his helmets, uniforms, locker rooms, practice schedules and pre-game rituals. This is his offense, his defense, his special teams. And it’s all not working against bad teams. Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock.

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The beauty of playing in the Mountain West, though, is that there is always another awful team lurking right around the corner on your schedule. This week’s patsy is Fresno State, a team that has beaten just two FBS teams in its last 19 tries. If the Pack loses to Fresno State at home, it should do the honorable thing and start looking for a new head coach come Monday morning. Polian’s biggest contribution to Pack football the last four years has been his cliché “Keep Chopping” mantra but if he loses to Fresno his head needs to be placed on that chopping block. If the Pack is 2-4 come Monday morning after losses to Purdue, Hawaii and Fresno State, it might be time to dismantle the football program, light dynamite around Lawlor Events Center, put a dome over Mackay Stadium and let the men’s basketball team play there. But that is not going to happen. The Pack will beat Fresno and the era of being mired in Polian Purgatory will continue.

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Polian, though, isn’t even the Pack’s biggest concern right now. The biggest disappointment so far this season has been new offensive coordinator Tim Cramsey. The Wolf Pack is last in the 12-team Mountain West in scoring at 21.8 points a game and 11th in total offense at 366.8 yards a game. Chris Ault’s offenses used to get those numbers by halftime. Don’t forget that the Pack hasn’t even played a good defense yet. Even Notre Dame can’t stop anyone. They even fired their defensive coordinator two weeks ago. But don’t give up on Cramsey just yet. There are signs of hope. The Pack can move the ball. They lead the Mountain West in total first downs and are second with a 51.4 per cent success rate on third downs. James Butler is still a great running back, there are a half dozen talented receivers on the roster and quarterback Tyler Stewart is Mr. Efficiency. Odds are they will start to score in bunches. But it better start this Saturday.

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Why isn’t the Wolf Pack throwing the ball to wide receiver Hasaan Henderson and tight end Jarred Gipson? The two seniors have just 17 catches combined through the first five games. Henderson is big and strong (6-foot-5, 220 pounds) and little defensive backs just disappear against him like gnats on a windshield. Gipson, like Henderson, has great hands and an uncanny ability to get open. If the Pack is looking to start scoring touchdowns in the red zone, they might want to try throwing the ball to Henderson and Gipson. Not throwing them the ball, after all, has added up to just 21.8 points game.

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The Wolf Pack has been outscored 132-74 after the first quarter. And that includes 14 parting gift points against Hawaii last week after the game was decided merely as a souvenir to take back home on the plane. The Pack is clearly getting out coached. They have just 10 points all season long in the third quarter after teams make their halftime adjustments. Hawaii coach Nick Rolovich, the former Wolf Pack offensive coordinator, a guy who had four head coaching games under his belt, looked like Bear Bryant, Woody Hayes and Knute Rockne against Polian last week. Hawaii played as if their statehood was being threatened. The Pack played as if they were waiting for some beautiful girl in a grass skirt and a smile to place a lei over their neck. This is a coaching staff that needs to take a long look in the mirror. Plane travel has been a staple of college football since the 1930s. It’s not an excuse in 2016. Try taking a ride in a 1930s or 40s airplane or sitting 15 hours (or two or three days) on a train and then go play a football game. Now those are legitimate excuses.

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It’s not all the fault of the coaching staff. At some point the players need to take ownership of the team. This Pack team is still looking for leadership. Even last year’s team had solid leaders like Lenny Jones, Don Jackson, Ian Seau, Rykeem Yates and Jordan Dobrich. Jones and Jackson were vocal leaders and were always seen stomping around and yelling on the sideline during games. Seau, Yates and Dobrich led by example with their toughness and work ethic. All they had to do was stare at a teammate to get them motivated. But they are all gone now. Where are the leaders on this team going to come from? Well, after five games we still don’t know. The defense is either young or not very good or both. Young and not very good does not add up to leadership. The offense, while talented, looks like a bunch of robots playing a video game right now. That’s what happens when you implement a new playbook. Nobody plays with any flair or individuality. It’s obvious that this coaching staff can’t motivate anybody. Rolovich was the offense’s leader and he’s now in Hawaii. Polian is just filled with cliches and excuses. The defense can’t tackle anybody. The leadership has to come from the players.

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Don’t give up on this Wolf Pack football season just yet. The Pack doesn’t need Knute Rockne, Woody Hayes or even Chris Ault to turn this mess around and start winning games. The schedule still has a ton of bad teams on it like bags of unguarded candy on the neighbor’s porch on Halloween night. The Pack doesn’t even play the only two (Boise State, Air Force) remaining undefeated teams in the Mountain West. They play San Diego State – the only other team in the conference who isn’t dreadful – in November but even the Aztecs look vulnerable after getting blasted by South Alabama last week. The first place teams in the Pack’s division are Hawaii and UNLV. That’s like putting your 95-year-old grandmother in charge of your frat house on a Friday night. There is absolutely no reason why the Pack can’t be 4-1 in Mountain West games and going up against 5-0 San Diego State on Nov. 12 with the division title on the line. All they need to do is show up and compete and fight. Every week.