Is Polian finally starting to live up to name? | NevadaAppeal.com

Is Polian finally starting to live up to name?

Joe Santoro
For the Nevada Appeal

Sports fodder for a Friday morning…Brian Polian just might be able to build a consistently successful FBS college football program after all. It only took 14 games but last Friday night we finally got a glimpse maybe, just maybe, Polian is more than just a smooth-talking, slick-haired used car salesman with a famous football last name. Last Friday night, in a 24-13 win over Washington State, Polian and his staff turned in what just might be the best single game coaching effort by the Wolf Pack since Chris Ault and company went to Cal and won to open the 2012 season. It wasn’t perfect and it certainly wasn’t pretty and, at times, the Pack looked like it was daring Washington State to beat them, but it’s been a long time since the Wolf Pack won a game it probably should have lost.

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Polian earned the Wolf Pack job, supposedly, because of his ability to recruit players. Well, he’s in his second year on the job and his best recruit so far just might be defensive coordinator Scott Boone. Boone came to Nevada this year after coaching in relative obscurity at William & Mary, Randolph-Macon and Wabash College the past 30 years. Take 10 points if you knew those three schools even had a football program. Boone’s defense has been brilliant so far, allowing just 32 total points in two games. Remember, this is the same defense that allowed 41 points in the second half alone in the season opener last year at UCLA. It couldn’t tackle a two-legged dog on roller skates a year ago. The first indicator of a good head coach is his ability to put even better coaches around him. Polian seems to be doing just that.

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Before the season started we predicted an 8-4 record for the Pack with a chance at 10 wins if everything fell into place. Don’t look now but everything is indeed falling into place. The Pack just might be the best team in the Mountain West already. They are certainly in the conversation. The Pack and Wyoming are the only two teams in the conference with perfect (2-0) records and Wyoming, well, is playing Oregon this week. A win at Arizona on Saturday and the Pack could very well be 4-0 (they also play at San Jose State on Sept. 27) heading into a showdown with Boise State on Oct. 4 at Mackay Stadium. Wolf Pack football, for the first time since the middle of the 2012 season, is fun again.

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Before the Pack beats Arizona and San Jose State and then shocks Boise State on Oct. 4 and all of northern Nevada starts wearing Polian masks on Halloween, this is as good a time as any to pump the brakes a little. The Wolf Pack offensive line is average on its good days. Tackling is still an issue for the defense and the offense has been conservative, boring and predictable. So nobody is suggesting all of the concerns from a year ago are long gone. The 2-0 start is just that — a start. But college football is all about confidence. And this team right now has Mountain West championship and bowl game confidence.

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The Wolf Pack offense hasn’t been horrible, scoring 52 points and averaging 435 yards a game as well as nearly 37 minutes of possession each game. Numbers like that will get them to eight victories alone this year. But we expect more out of the Pack offense. Where is the old pistol offense that used to chew up and spit out opponents like so many sunflower seeds? There doesn’t seem to be any explosiveness or creativity in this Pack attack. Can this team win a shootout? This defense is better but it’s not likely it can hold everyone under 20 points.

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We have seen two commissioners in two major sports handle serious scandals quite differently in recent months. NBA commissioner Adam Silver was praised and applauded for his swift and stern punishment of Donald Sterling. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has been widely criticized for giving Ray Rice a slap on the wrist two-game suspension and now Goodell’s league is being investigated for possibly trying to stage some sort of cover-up to protect the league’s image. The Rice situation should have been Goodell’s golden opportunity to send a clear and distinct message to his entire league, that violence against women can cost you your career. Goodell will never live this down as long as he remains commissioner. He either looked like a bumbling fool or he was part of an ugly cover up. If it’s proven Goodell or anyone connected to the NFL actually viewed the videotape of Rice inside the elevator before this week, then Goodell needs to resign.

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There’s no question that Goodell finally got it right when he suspended Rice indefinitely. The Ravens also got it right by releasing Rice. But we still have one question. Why did it take a video of Rice smashing his fist in his fiancé’s face for the NFL and the Ravens to figure out the correct punishment? What, exactly, did they think a 200-pound, muscular man punching a woman in the face looked like? Shame on the NFL.

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Will Rice ever play in the NFL again? Let’s hope not. Playing in the NFL is not a right. It’s a privilege. What message will be sent if Rice is carrying the ball in a NFL game a year from now? The message is the league considers violence against women only slightly more serious than violence against quarterbacks and wide receivers. That’s not a league any of us should care about, let alone support.