Nevada’s passing game keeps declining | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada’s passing game keeps declining

Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .

The Nevada Wolf Pack, it seems, has lost all confidence in Tyler Stewart’s ability to throw the football. Stewart attempted just 18 passes last Saturday in a 31-27 loss at Utah State. He has thrown just 84 passes over the last four games. Earlier in the year the Pack allowed Stewart to throw just 21 passes at Buffalo and 19 against New Mexico. Nobody is saying the Pack needs to turn Stewart into Chris Vargas, Mike Maxwell or Zack Threadgill and let him chuck it 50-60 and even 70 times a game. He doesn’t after all, have a Nate Burleson or Alex Van Dyke to throw to. But Stewart is more talented than just the game manager the Pack is allowing him to be.

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Don’t be shocked if the Pack quietly opens up the quarterback competition once again this spring and summer. Hunter Fralick and Dante Mayes will have another year of pistol studying under their belts and Austin Kafentzis will be eligible. Kafentzis, after all, didn’t leave Wisconsin to come sit the bench in Reno. Stewart is a solid college quarterback. He’s not dynamic on or off the field. He doesn’t seem to be a great leader. And you really don’t want to put the game in his hands in the final minutes. But he’s a nice, safe choice in a conference void of dynamic quarterbacks. Stewart, though, could be playing for his starting job this Saturday at San Diego State and in the bowl game next month. The Pack might be tired of nice and safe.

“Don’t be shocked if the pack quietly opens up the quaterback competition once again this spring and summer.”

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Stewart doesn’t deserve to lose his job. He’s only been intercepted five times all year. He can throw (1,837 yards, 15 touchdowns) and he can run (330 yards, four scores), when the Pack coaches allow him to do so. Yes, he dropped a snap in the end zone, costing the Pack the game against Utah State. But why was the Pack still in the pistol, lining Stewart up three yards deep in the end zone on that play from the 1-yard line anyway? With a 6-point lead late in the fourth quarter, you get up under center, sneak it forward for a yard or two and get out of danger. The Pack’s conservative play-calling on Saturday lost that game. No imagination. No creativity. No surprises. Just James Butler and Don Jackson up the gut and hope for the best. It’s the biggest reason this team is 6-5 right now and not 9-2.

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We suggested after last season that the Pack should consider decreasing its reliance on the pistol. The pistol needs a dynamic, explosive quarterback in order to be a great offense. It needs Colin Kaepernick or Cody Fajardo, guys who can keep the ball and go 60 yards all by themselves. Stewart can get six yards. The pistol has peaked. Everyone now knows how to defend it, especially when the quarterback’s legs don’t give defensive coordinators nightmares. The Pack rarely throws to its tight end anymore. It hardly ever throws to its backs and Stewart seems to run just twice a game on designed runs. And when was the last time the Pack actually threw deep down the field more than once a month? I think it was Threadgill to Burleson in 2002. The Pack just lines up and bulls its way ahead, like in the second half meltdown against Utah State. The only option in the Pack’s so-called option offense right now is whether to hand off to Butler or Jackson. Make no mistake, the pistol is a nice, safe offense with sound principles. But a nice and safe offense with a nice and safe quarterback only gets you 6-8 wins and a meaningless bowl game. The Pack has two choices. It can either wait for the next Kaepernick or Fajardo to come along. Or it can become creative, imaginative and fearless on offense once again.

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You would think, especially after last week, that the Pack has no chance at San Diego State. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Aztecs have a sound defense and the Pack will have to be a bit more creative on offense than they have been all year to score more than a couple token touchdowns. But the Aztecs’ offense relies on mighty mite back Donnel Pumphrey, who is always one hit away from the sidelines. The Pack soundly beat the Aztecs just last season, forcing diminutive Donnel to cough the ball up twice. The Pack should have beaten the Aztecs also in 2012 and 2013. San Diego State has nothing to play for on Saturday. They are already in the Mountain West title game and a bowl game. The Pack is playing to keep its season from becoming a major disappointment. This wouldn’t be as big an upset as it might appear on the surface.

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The difference between Eric Musselman and former Wolf Pack basketball coach David Carter? Carter coached positions. Musselman coaches players. Carter was always trying to make his players into something they weren’t. Kevin Panzer as a power forward. Deonte Burton and Marqueze Coleman as walk-it-up-the-floor, pass-first point guards. Devonte Elliott as a post-up center. Musselman’s system has no positions or roles. And it has just one rule: Do what you do best, play hard and leave the floor at the end of the game exhausted. Musselman is that rare college coach who has the ability to coach players without them knowing they are being coached.

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Kobe Bryant and Peyton Manning need to face reality and retire. Bryant embarrassed himself Tuesday night against the Golden State Warriors, missing 13 of 14 shots and scoring four points. He’s shooting 31 per cent from the floor this season and 20 percent on threes. And he’s playing for a 2-12 Los Angeles Lakers team that wouldn’t even make the NCAA tournament. Kobe is 37-years-old and he looks 57. Manning looks about 77 and makes an old Jamie Moyer look like a young Nolan Ryan. He’s become Johnny Unitas with the San Diego Chargers and Joe Namath with the Los Angeles Rams. Both Bryant and Manning are painful to watch. They need to respect their careers and walk away before the NBA and NFL won’t allow women and children to watch them play.

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The Warriors might not lose a game this season. They certainly have a great chance to break the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ record of 72 victories. It would be shocking if they lost more than 10 games. They don’t even have a head coach right now and they are still destroying teams. But how great is this Warriors’ team? Well, they already have one NBA title and are seemingly on their way to another. It’s easy to say that the Warriors are just a jump-shooting team and would never beat any of the great teams of the past that were far more physical and just as talented. But don’t be so sure. The Warriors play the game the right way. They pass the ball as well as anyone in league history and they always seem to get great looks. And, yes, they shoot the lights out. Has there ever been a better jump-shooting team? Enjoy it, Warriors fans.

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The NFL announced its 25 finalists for the Hall of Fame recently and, well, about 20 of them are sure-fire Hall of Famers. But the six that should go in right away are Don Coryell, Roger Craig, Kurt Warner, Terrell Davis, Brett Favre and Terrell Owens. Kenny Stabler is also one of three finalists from the senior committee and also deserves to be in Canton. Tony Dungy, Marvin Harrison, Morten Andersen, Joe Jacoby and Orlando Pace among the semifinalists are also no-brainer Hall of Famers. Baseball always gets criticized for its Hall of Fame voting but football is far worse. There are always about two dozen former players and coaches in any given year that should be in the Hall and aren’t, like Jim Marshall, Jerry Kramer, Jim Plunkett, Gino Cappelletti and Alex Karras.