Pack coach just does not get it
October 20, 2016
Sports fodder for a Friday ….
Brian Polian, once again, showed us all this week why he just doesn't get it. The Nevada Wolf Pack football coach explained on Tuesday why he didn't give Reed High graduate Parker Houston a scholarship offer last recruiting season. Polian said that Houston didn't fit the Wolf Pack model, that he was too small for what the Pack was looking for in a tight end. "We were looking for something different," said Polian, who also added that "there are only 85 scholarships" and "you can't have nine tight ends." Well, Houston is currently starting at tight end for the San Diego State Aztecs, the best team in the Mountain West. Houston fit the Aztecs' model but he didn't fit the Wolf Pack model? Maybe it's time to change the Wolf Pack model. Polian's model is now 3-6 and has lost eight of its last 11 regular season games. The Aztecs model has won 18 of its last 19 games. This is yet another example of how Polian continues to fail at connecting with the community. When a northern Nevada high school football player has the ability to play Division I football the Wolf Pack needs to at least offer that young man a scholarship. No excuses.
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The Houston situation is damaging for Polian on so many levels. Why wouldn't the Wolf Pack be desperate to add qualified football players from northern Nevada? The area isn't exactly overflowing with legitimate Division I players, after all. Doesn't the Wolf Pack want to connect with the community? Is money the only thing the Wolf Pack wants from the community? Houston is 6-foot-3, 240 pounds. Polian said he was looking for a tight end an inch or two taller and 5-10 pounds heavier. Really? The Pack has eight tight ends on its current roster and just one is taller than 6-4. Just one is heaver than 240. So, it is OK for a Wolf Pack tight end to be 6-3, 240 if he is from California, Texas and Indiana but not from Nevada? Houston is just a freshman. Don't you think he can add 10 pounds? Aztecs' coach Rocky Long, one of the best coaches in the country, thought Houston was worthy of one of his 85 scholarships. Long preaches toughness, work ethic, grit and character. Houston fit his model.
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The Wolf Pack always plays San Diego State well. The Pack beat the Aztecs two years ago at Mackay Stadium and lost in overtime by one point to Long's team at Mackay in 2012. The Pack even plays the Aztecs tough in San Diego, losing by just two touchdowns last year and a touchdown in overtime in 2013. Nobody is predicting a Wolf Pack victory on Saturday but don't be surprised if the Pack makes the Aztecs sweat a lot. This is the Pack's real bowl game this year. San Diego State has already clinched the division title and has nothing to play for. The Pack has everything to play for.
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This is a vastly different Wolf Pack team right now than it was just two weeks ago. Backup quarterback Ty Gangi took over for injured starter Tyler Stewart in the second quarter against Wyoming two games ago and has breathed life into the Pack. Gangi has passed for 601 yards and four touchdowns in just seven quarters of play. He has directed 20 drives and has produced eight touchdowns and four field goal attempts (two that were good). He's also put 60 points on the scoreboard over those seven quarters despite being on the field for just 35 minutes. The Aztecs will be his greatest test but nothing rattles this young man. San Diego State is extremely tough against the run but they can be beat through the air. Cody Fajardo always played well against the Aztecs, using his legs and arm.
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You still have to wonder if the Pack even knows what it has in Gangi. Gangi won the No. 2 job behind Stewart this summer, Polian said, because he is a better runner than Hunter Fralick. Well, the Pack had two weeks in which to prepare Gangi for his first career start last Saturday at New Mexico and they allowed him to run the ball just twice. And one of those was actually on a sack. Polian said the Pack would take the two weeks between the Wyoming and New Mexico games to actually tailor the offense to Gangi's skills. OK, when did Gangi turn into Peyton Manning and Dan Marino? During the bye week?
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Pack running back James Butler will likely surpass two significant milestones on Saturday against the Aztecs. Butler needs just 11 yards for his second consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season and he needs just 34 yards to become the ninth player in school history to reach 3,000 yards. The Aztecs are great because they are built in Long's image. They are tough, physical, fearless and a little nasty. And they devour opposing running backs. Butler, though, might be toughest guy on the field Saturday night. He is a Wolf Pack treasure and is having another tremendous season. By the time his Wolf Pack career ends after next season, he might be atop the school's career rushing list with Frank Hawkins.
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The Wolf Pack men's basketball season starts Friday night at Saint Mary's in what might be their toughest test of the season. Saint Mary's won a school-record 29 games a year ago and returns practically its entire roster. The Gaels are ranked in the Top 20 of both the Associated Press and USA Today polls and they come out firing threes from the opening tip off to the final buzzer. The Wolf Pack, though, is ready for this game. Coach Eric Musselman is ready for this game. He's been preparing for this game for the last seven months. The Pack will have the best player on the floor (Cam Newton) and they will have the better athletes and better coaching staff. As long as the Gaels don't make a dozen or more threes the Pack can pull off this upset.