Friday Fodder: UNLV should give up football
December 5, 2014
Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .The good folks down south at UNLV need to call the brave souls at Alabama-Birmingham for some friendly advice. Alabama-Birmingham, you see, had the guts this week to do what UNLV should have done years ago. The Blazers dropped the sport of football. The Rebels need to grit their teeth and find the courage to do the same. Actually, it wouldn't take half the courage in Las Vegas to do what Alabama-Birmingham did. In Alabama, don't forget, they actually care about football. Las Vegas would barely notice if the Rebels dropped the sport. Most Las Vegas residents would probably be shocked to know their fine city actually had a Division I football team. It's the perfect time for UNLV to get rid of football. The Rebels have had just three winning seasons since 1985 and they don't even have a head coach anymore after Bobby Hauck finally did the honorable thing and resigned. Then again, maybe the Rebels dropped football three decades ago and didn't tell anybody.
Everything you need to know about the latest anticlimactic Nevada Wolf Pack football season was summed up in the fact quarterback Cody Fajardo ended up as just one of 55 players on the Honorable Mention list this week when the All-Mountain West football team was announced. Fajardo had the potential to be the Player of the Year. He could have been First Team quarterback. If he was at a big-time program it would have started his Heisman Trophy hype last August. He's that talented. The offense was set up for him. Nobody on the roster — players or coaches — has as much experience in the pistol offense as Fajardo. It was his senior year. This was his time to explode as a big-time, nationally-recognized player. But he ended up barely getting recognized in his own conference. Fajardo, who will likely throw for 400 yards, run for 200 and score five touchdowns in the Pack's bowl game, had yet another up and down season. The game that sums up his career was the 40-20 loss to Fresno State when he was, at times, brilliant (two 50-plus yard scoring runs) and frustratingly mediocre seemingly one play to the next.
All nine of the Wolf Pack's players named to the All-Mountain West team (five second teamers, four honorable mentions), had solid seasons and deserved postseason recognition. There was, however, one other player in Silver and Blue that was unfairly slighted by the league and should have gotten at least a token Honorable Mention honor. Defensive back Nigel Haikins was, without question, one of the top players at his position in the league. Haikins had 70 tackles, nine passes defensed, three interceptions, recovered three fumbles and forced one. He even scored a touchdown. Haikins had a great year and deserved recognition.
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Colorado State football coach Jim McElwain went 4-8 in his first season in 2012, 8-6 last year and 10-2 this year. And now he's the head coach at Florida. Wolf Pack head coach Brian Polian went 4-8 his first season last year and will be either 7-6 or 8-5 this year after a bowl game. If Polian goes 10-2 next year will he end up at an SEC school as a head coach? Not likely.
But if Polian can find a way to win nine or 10 games next year, don't be shocked if 2015 is his final year in Northern Nevada.
That's what Nevada and the Mountain West is for coaches. It's a pit stop, a stepping stone. It's not a destination.
The Wolf Pack will have to find a new quarterback next year but nine wins is not out of the question. The home games in 2015 are UNLV (win), San Jose State (win), Hawaii (win), New Mexico (win), UC Davis (win) and Arizona (loss). That's 5-1 at home. The road games are Fresno State, San Diego State, Utah State, Wyoming, Buffalo and Texas A&M. That's two probable wins (Wyoming, Buffalo), three games that could go either way (Fresno State, San Diego State, Utah State) and one likely loss (Texas A&M). The Pack is looking at a likely eight-win season next year. Looks like Polian will be back in 2016.
The Wolf Pack men's basketball team might also be looking at an eight-win season this year unless it can find somebody who can score the ball. The Pack lost all five of its games on its just-completed road swing and is now 2-5 with a game against Cal on Sunday at Lawlor Events Center. The Pack averaged 55 points a game on the road trip. Four players are averaging this season between 10-12 points a game and nobody else can seem to figure out which basket to shoot at. The team is shooting 37 percent on field goals, 27 percent on threes and just under 70 percent on free throws. Only two players on the roster right now have more assists than turnovers. It's hard to get an assist, after all, when nobody can shoot straight.
The key to this Pack basketball season, it seems, might be newcomers Tyron Criswell and Eric Cooper. If there is potential to get this Pack team to average 65 points or so a game, it might have to come from a boost from the talented 6-foot-3 reserve guards. The Pack knows what it will get offensively from starters D.J. Fenner, Marqueze Coleman, A.J. West and Michael Perez. And that's about 50 or so combined points. None of them shoot well enough on a consistent basis to increase that offensive output so the improvement will likely have to come from elsewhere. That's where Criswell and Cooper come in. Head coach David Carter might have to go with a smaller lineup, substituting 6-foot-9 starter Kaileb Rodriguez, who isn't giving the team anything on the offensive end (1.7 points a game), with either Cooper or Criswell. Criswell is averaging 5.1 points and Cooper is chipping in with 3.9. Give them both another five or so minutes a game and those 9.0 combined points they give you now will likely jump to 15. That might be enough to make this Pack team competitive.
It's time for Colin Kaepernick to take the next step. Kaepernick is stagnating as an NFL quarterback and it's because the 49ers are not allowing him to do what he does best. Kaepernick needs to make like Forrest Gump and run. And run some more. His passer rating has decreased in each of his three starting seasons (98.3 to 91.6 to 87.8) in the NFL. His rushing touchdowns have also decreased each year, from five to four to zero. There's absolutely no reason in the world why Kaepernick should still be looking for his first rushing touchdown in the 13th game of the year. Kaepernick, much like he did in 2010 at Nevada, needs to take over this offense, stop listening to his conservative coaches and stop being a Jim Harbaugh, Greg Roman robot. Good things will happen.
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