Nevada running game stuck in mediocre so far | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada running game stuck in mediocre so far

Sports fodder for a Friday morning …The Nevada Wolf Pack’s running game has moved from the fast lane to the carpool lane. The Wolf Pack averaged just 2.7 yards on each of its 40 running plays in Saturday’s 35-28 loss at Arizona. The Pack is averaging 3.7 yards a carry this season, which would be its lowest per-rush average for an entire season since the 2000 team averaged 2.2 a rush. That’s just not acceptable for the pistol offense. Well, make that the Chris Ault pistol offense. For the Nick Rolovich pistol offense, however, it has become the norm. Last year, in Rolovich’s first season as offensive coordinator, the Pack averaged 3.8 yards per carry. Ault’s pistol teams from 2005-12 never averaged less than 4.3, with a high of 7.4 in 2009. It now takes the Pack two carries to go 7.4 yards.

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Pack coach Brian Polian, though, seems satisfied with 3.7 or 3.8 yards a carry. This year he has already pointed out three consecutive running plays of 3.8 yards will get you a first down. It’s that type of thinking which forces you to settle for field goals after driving the ball 70 yards.

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The blame for the Pack’s mediocre running game is not solely on the legs of running backs Don Jackson and James Butler. The offensive line, which in the Ault pistol era used to take it as a slap in the face when even one running play netted less than four yards, has been held together by glue, string, tape and spit the last two years. Quarterback Cody Fajardo has also averaged just 4.5 yards a rush the last two years. The quarterback in the pistol from 2008-12 (Colin Kaepernick’s last three years and Fajardo’s first two) never averaged less than 5.4 a carry.

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It might be time to insert Kendall Brock back into the backfield at least on a part-time basis. Brock averaged 4.4 yards a carry a year ago in his only season as a full-time running back. All that did, however, was earn him a demotion to a special teams/utility role this year. Jackson and Butler are each averaging 3.6 a carry this year. The two combined to average 3.0 a carry at Arizona. Last time we checked, three consecutive running plays of 3.0 yards will not get you a first down.

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Going into the Arizona game we wondered if the Wolf Pack offense under Rolovich’s direction could win a shootout. Well, after Saturday we still don’t know. Oh, the numbers looked great. The Pack scored 28 points and Fajardo was magnificent, throwing for 321 yards and three scores. But they also left points on the table, settling for two field goals on their first two drives. After those first two drives the Pack had 32 plays, 141 yards and 15:34 worth of possession time. That’s not how you win a shootout. That’s how you lose a shootout.

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Colin Kaepernick didn’t exactly pick a good time to have one of his worst performances as an NFL starter last Sunday night in the San Francisco 49ers’ 28-20 loss to the Chicago Bears. It was the first regular season game at the new Levi Stadium, it was on national television and the Seattle Seahawks had already lost earlier in the day. Kaepernick was awful, tossing three interceptions and losing one fumble and seemingly losing his cool (he was fined $11,000 for using inappropriate language on the field). It was Kaepernick at his worst and reminiscent of his performance in the Wolf Pack’s only loss of the 2010 season at Hawaii.

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Kaepernick seems to be stagnating as a NFL player. He remains a mediocre quarterback at best when throwing the ball, especially from the pocket. And now he doesn’t even look as explosive as he once did as a runner. Defenses now are simply daring him to throw, knowing he’ll eventually make a mistake through the air. Knowing how competitive Kaepernick is, he just might use the Bear game as motivation to take that next, pivotal step in his career toward becoming a truly elite quarterback. Or this might just be who he is.

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How will the recent rash of ugly off-the-field incidents affect the NFL in the long run? It won’t have any effect at all. The nation will still love the game after these incidents fade from the spotlight. The nation will still fawn over NFL players and buy their jerseys, no matter what those players do in their free time. The nation will still buy the items sold by NFL sponsors. And the NFL will continue to get richer and richer, no matter how many of their athletes get arrested.