Pack needs to play with passion, motivation | NevadaAppeal.com

Pack needs to play with passion, motivation

Sports fodder for a Friday morning … The Nevada Wolf Pack football team is now in complete circle-the-wagons cliché mode. Everyone is out to get them. Nobody believes in them. Nobody in the community is hurting right now after losing to UNLV more than they are. They are family and all love each other and, as one Pack player said this week, “to heck with everyone else.” Coach Brian Polian’s “us against the world” mentality has kicked into high gear once again and we — the community, the media, anyone who is not a player or coach — are the enemy. In a few weeks, after they’ve beaten a few of the awful teams on their ridiculously easy schedule, the Pack will sit back and smugly say how they stuck together like a family when nobody outside their inner circle believed in them. Aren’t clichés wonderful? A team plays its worst game of the year, severely disappoints its already fragile fan base by losing to its biggest rival on its own field and, suddenly, it’s the community’s fault.

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Pack quarterback Tyler Stewart said this week that the team is not motivated by what happened last Saturday. He doesn’t live his life that way, he said. Well, he needs to start playing football that way. The Pack better be motivated by what happened against UNLV. They should never forget the feeling they had watching UNLV take home the cannon. If you can’t be motivated by stinking up your own stadium against your biggest rival then what does motivate you? If it is indeed true that the Pack will not be motivated by losing to UNLV then this season is over. College football is all about motivation and passion. And the Pack was just handed a dozen truck loads of motivation and passion. They need to use it and nurture it. We refuse to believe that the Pack won’t be motivated by what happened against UNLV. Despite what the coaches and players said this week, we have more faith in this team than that.

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There was absolutely no atmosphere at Mackay Stadium last Saturday. First of all, the Fremont Cannon spent the entire game tucked away in one corner of the UNLV sideline. What’s the point of winning the rivalry game and the cannon if the cannon doesn’t even spend the next game on your sideline? The Wolf Pack captains should have rolled the cannon out to midfield with them for the coin toss, pointed it at the Rebels bench and dared the Rebels to take it away from them. Instead, the cannon had absolutely no presence on Saturday. UNLV fans also barely filled up half of their one little section at Mackay Stadium. They were probably afraid to come to Reno given the fact that both universities sucked the life and passion out of the game with all of their “Rivals on the field, Nevadans everywhere else“ public service announcements last week. Now, we are not condoning violence or throwing bottles at the opposing coach but it seemed like the fans were afraid to even boo for fear of being arrested. It was just a strange day all around at Mackay Stadium.

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Polian has now completely lost the confidence of the community. When you let UNLV come to Mackay Stadium and steal the cannon away for the second time in three years, well, that is a haunting memory that will take a very long time to fade away. The community wanted so badly for Polian to transform the Wolf Pack into the next Boise State. Northern Nevada had grown tired of former coach Chris Ault and, well, even Ault knew that so he stepped away. Polian’s arrival in 2013 tapped into a fan base that had been dormant for years during the Ault era. They didn’t care that Polian was just a career special teams coach. They saw Notre Dame, Stanford and Texas A&M on his resume and it was as if he was responsible for Johnny Manziel, John Elway and Touchdown Jesus. Yes, Ault beat UNLV every year but who couldn’t beat UNLV every year? Well, I guess we found out.

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The Wolf Pack didn’t lose to UNLV because Polian was out-coached by UNLV head coach Tony Sanchez. Sanchez, a career high school coach, is even less qualified than Polian to be a Division I head coach. Sanchez and Polian really have no affect on the outcome of games. They are just there to berate the officials. The reason the Pack lost on Saturday was because UNLV defensive coordinator Kent Baer out-coached Wolf Pack offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich. Baer, like Polian, coached at big-time programs such as Stanford, Notre Dame, Cal, Arizona State and Washington. But, unlike Polian, Baer actually devised game plans and called plays. The Pack on Saturday turned in its worst offensive performance against UNLV in the 11-year pistol era.

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The Pack’s pistol offense has no pop these days. Why don’t they throw to the tight end anymore? Stewart also rarely runs. We understand he’s not Colin Kaepernick or Cody Fajardo but he’s not Tyler Lantrip either. The key to the pistol is always reminding the defense that the quarterback can run. Everyone has forgotten that fact now, even the Pack offense. Running backs Don Jackson and James Butler are big-time talents. The old pistol offense would have given them each 100 yards a game. The old pistol, unfortunately, now is stuck in the glass cases of Legacy Hall. Rolovich was weaned on Hawaii’s run-and-shoot offense that despised tight ends, running quarterbacks and running backs. It was the pistol without the bullets. The Wolf Pack needs a pistol refresher course. We have a certain pistol professor in mind that can teach the course. You know, the guy that always beat UNLV. He’s stuck in the glass cases at Legacy Hall with the Pack‘s old offense.

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If the Pack offense continues to look mediocre then Stewart’s role as the starting quarterback might be in jeopardy. Backup Hunter Fralick, simply because he is from Spanish Springs High, is the community favorite. That is unfair to Stewart. He is more than capable of running this offense and has done a decent enough job so far. Don’t forget that he doesn’t call the plays and he can’t catch the ball for his receivers. OK, yes, nobody is ever going to label him dynamic and exciting on or off the field. And, remember, he’s not Kaepernick or Fajardo. Well, there is no Kaepernick or Fajardo on the roster. The last thing this fragile Pack team needs to do right now is to start playing musical quarterbacks.

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The beauty of the Mountain West this year is that you are never out of the division race, no matter how many games you give away. So don’t give up on this Pack team just yet, even if the Pack players and coaches say you have. Despite what happened against UNLV, a division title and a spot in the Mountain West title game is a very real possibility. Of course, if you can lose to UNLV at home you can lose to anybody anywhere. But there’s no great team in the Pack division. There’s not even a good team. Heck, it’s a very real possibility that all six teams in the Pack’s division could finish 4-4 in league play and the winner will be decided by tie-breakers, a flip of the coin or whichever team won the most games under a full moon. As Polian says every five minutes or so, there is still a lot of football left to be played. Or, at the very least, some Mountain West version that resembles football.