Locals should believe in the Wolf Pack | NevadaAppeal.com

Locals should believe in the Wolf Pack

Joe Santoro
For the Nevada Appeal

Sports fodder for a Friday morning… Do you believe in this Nevada Wolf Pack football team yet? Why not? The Wolf Pack is 2-1 and arguably as good or better than any team in the Mountain West. They have already beaten a Pac-12 team (Washington State) and nearly beat another (Arizona). They will roll over San Jose State on Saturday night, setting up a showdown — and a possible Mountain West championship game preview — with Boise State at Mackay Stadium on Oct. 4 when the Pack will party like its 2010 all over again. This team believes in itself. Coach Brian Polian has done a masterful job making sure there are no mental issues lingering from 2013. It’s time northern Nevada starts believing in this team, too.

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All of the concerns about the Wolf Pack’s inability to win a game away from Mackay Stadium is a bit silly. Yes, the Pack has lost its last eight games away from northern Nevada but all eight losses have come against teams (Arizona twice, Boise State, Fresno State, San Diego State, Florida State, UCLA, Colorado State) that also likely would have beaten Nevada at Mackay Stadium. The Pack’s so-called road woes will come to an end Saturday night at San Jose State. The Pack, in fact, might not lose more than one more road game this year since its remaining trips after Saturday are to UNLV, Hawaii, Air Force, BYU and a bowl game.

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What have we learned about the Mountain West this season? Well, not much. And we likely won’t learn much this weekend either when league play kicks in. The four league matchups this weekend (Pack at San Jose State, UNLV at San Diego State, Boise State at Air Force and Fresno at New Mexico) could all be blowouts. The only home team in those four games who should win is San Diego State. The Mountain West, to borrow a line from Denny Green, is what we thought it was — a league of awful teams mixed in with some mediocre and good but not great teams.

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Derek Jeter’s New York Yankees have won just one World Series in the last 14 years. When Jorge Posada, Tino Martinez, Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill disappeared, Jeter was left to lead the franchise and, well, that was when the Boston Red Sox passed them by. Jeter as a leader was always overrated. In addition to Posada, Martinez, Williams and O’Neill, when the Yankees were winning World Series they also had a bunch of veteran leaders like Tim Raines, Joe Girardi, Wade Boggs, Darryl Strawberry, David Cone, Dwight Gooden and Roger Clemens. Make no mistake, Jeter is a first ballot Hall of Famer. But now that his ridiculous over hyped farewell tour is coming to an end, let’s keep his career in perspective. He was merely a good player who played his entire career in the media machine that is New York and also had the good fortune to be able to sit atop a great lineup for 20 years.

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The Wolf Pack men’s basketball team received some good news this week when it learned the NCAA has granted junior (last week he was a senior) forward A.J. West another year of eligibility. Of course, the NCAA has never gone more than 15 minutes in a row when it was certain about West’s actual eligibility so things might yet still change. But as long as West is around, Pack basketball will be interesting to watch. Coaching West is another matter.

Thanks to West it did seem coach David Carter wanted to grow some hair on his head last year just so he could pull it out. But if Carter can indeed draw some consistency out of his erratic power forward the next two Pack seasons could be a lot of fun to watch.

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Nobody really knows what to expect out of Carter’s Wolf Pack this season. Point guard Deonte Burton is now gone, leaving a team full of inconsistent (West, Marqueze Coleman, Michael Perez, Ronnie Stevens, D.J. Fenner, etc.) and unknown (too many to mention here) players. The one thing we do know, though, is they won’t be boring. Burton was a great player but the Burton-led Wolf Pack for the most part was a bit predictable, frustrating and, yes, boring. It was simply Burton passing to mediocre and sometimes confused players for the first 37 minutes and then Burton trying to win the game all by himself in the final three minutes. That’s a formula which will get you three sub-.500 seasons in four years. Coleman and West alone will make every possession like a three-ring circus this year. It will be like the lion tamer who sticks his head in the mouth of the lion. Sometimes he will thrill the crowd and escape without a scratch and sometimes the lion will bite his head off. That, alone, will be worth the price of admission.

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It’s always easy to blame the quarterback when things don’t go well in the NFL. But the San Francisco 49ers’ struggles on offense — just three points in the second half this season after three games — aren’t the entire fault of quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick just isn’t getting any help. It’s time the 49ers switch the focus of their offense from Frank Gore and Michael Crabtree to Carlos Hyde and Vernon Davis. Hyde is already better than Gore. And Davis just needs to stay healthy. The NFL isn’t the Western Athletic Conference. A quarterback can’t do it all by himself.

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It’s easy to blame the Oakland A’s problems the last two months on the loss of Yoenis Cespedes in the John Lester trade. General manager Billy Beane, it seems, made one move too many. But let’s hold off on condemning Beane right now. The Cespedes-for-Lester deal was made with the postseason in mind. Lester has been as good as advertised and Cespedes, in anyone east of Connecticut hasn’t noticed, has hit just five homers with a .296 on base percentage for the Boston Red Sox since the trade. Yes, nobody in green and gold wanted to enter the postseason via the wild card route but the A’s are still a team nobody wants to play in October.