Don’t blame Polian for all the Pack’s woes
October 20, 2016
Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .
Brian Polian is not to blame for everything that ails Nevada Wolf Pack football. Getting rid of the head coach will not cure everything evil and debilitating that seems to be flowing through the silver and blue veins right now. The problems started during the final two years of the Chris Ault era. The talent level in the program fell off drastically after the historic 2010 season. Ault was a horrible coach in 2012 as his team choked away game after game. He was a Polian-like 8-9 over his last 17 games, a disturbing trend that would have only gotten worse if he had stuck around to take the pounding that a cruel schedule (UCLA, Florida State, San Diego State, Boise State and BYU) was about to heap on the Pack in 2013. Polian inherited a heap of trouble when the Pack hired him and, well, it proved to be overwhelming for a career special teams coach to fix in just four years. Go figure.
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It is reasonable to suggest that the Wolf Pack will win three of its last four games to finish 6-6 and go to a bowl. New quarterback Ty Gangi showed last Saturday night in a 42-34 loss to Wyoming that he knows where the end zone is and knows how to bring out the best in his teammates. If Gangi plays like he did last Saturday it isn't insane to think that the Pack could beat New Mexico, UNLV and Utah State over the next month and go to a bowl. Does a 6-6 regular season, which included a win over UNLV and a bowl, get Polian a two-year extension? It should. Athletic director Doug Knuth, though, just might determine that 6-7 or 7-6 is all that Polian will ever accomplish at Nevada and it is time to return hope and promise to Mackay Stadium. Or he might want to avoid the hassle and bother of finding a new football coach right now and delay it another two years. Anything less than three wins in the last four games, though, should make Knuth's decision a simple one.
If things go as planned, the Wolf Pack men’s basketball team will be in the Top 25 before Knuth starts looking for a new football coach.
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It is time to put the career of quarterback Tyler Stewart in perspective. Stewart, whose career ended last Saturday when he injured his shoulder, was 11-11 as a Wolf Pack starter. He passed for 3,300 yards and 27 touchdowns and he even won a bowl game. The Pack never scored as many as 40 points in any of his 22 starts and he never passed for as many as 300 yards in a game. Stewart, though, always seemed to be playing the position with one hand tied behind his back. The Pack didn't allow him to throw much and they rarely allowed him to run. All they asked of Stewart was that he didn't soil the carpet and he obliged, throwing just 12 interceptions in his career. He wasn't great and he wasn't bad. He was just there. And now he's gone.
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What will it take for the Wolf Pack to win the West Division of the Mountain West and go to the conference title game? First of all, the Pack (1-3 in conference) needs to win all four of its remaining games. San Diego State, now 3-0, needs to lose three of its last five league games with one of the losses being at Nevada on Nov. 12. Hawaii, now 3-1, also needs to lose three of its last four games. So you're saying there is a chance?
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Former Wolf Pack offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich right now should be the favorite to win the Mountain West Coach of the Year award. Rolovich took over a dismal 3-10 Hawaii team and has them at 4-4, 3-1 right now. That record is even more impressive when you consider that three of their four losses have come against Cal, Michigan and Arizona. Rolovich's success as a head coach shouldn't come as much of a surprise. He has always been loved by his players and he is the perfect fit in Hawaii. And he paid his dues as a long-time offensive coordinator. He wants to spend the rest of his career in Hawaii and the Hawaii fan base adores him. Nobody is blaming the Wolf Pack for not offering him the head coaching job in Nevada. He quickly bolted to Temple right after the 2012 season and was never seriously considered as Ault's replacement. But Rolovich's success and Polian's failures this year do make you think about what might have happened. If he was still on Polian's staff this year Knuth might have already made a coaching change.
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If things go as planned, the Wolf Pack men's basketball team will be in the Top 25 before Knuth starts looking for a new football coach. If the Pack beats St. Mary's, Loyola Marymount, Oregon State and Iona to start the year it could be in the Top 25 by Thanksgiving. If it doesn't happen that quickly, it certainly will happen by Christmas. There is a very good chance the Pack men's hoops team will lose fewer games this school year than the football team loses. The last time that happened was the 1931-32 school year when the football team lost five and the basketball team lost three. By the way, football coach George Philbrook was removed after the 1931 season even though three of his five losses were to BYU, Stanford, and Cal. The standards were higher in 1931.
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Don't be shocked if the World Series does not return to Cleveland. The Indians have no shot at beating the Cubs in this series unless Corey Kluber starts and wins three games. The Indians shouldn't even be in this Series. Their best player (Michael Brantley) and second best starting pitcher (Carlos Carrasco) aren't even on the active roster. And their third best starting pitcher (Danny Salazar) is reduced to pitching in relief. The Indians offense is reduced to Francisco Lindor getting on base and driving Jon Lester crazy. Cubs in five.