Joe Santoro: Fill Mackay? It may take perfection from the Nevada Wolf Pack football team | NevadaAppeal.com

Joe Santoro: Fill Mackay? It may take perfection from the Nevada Wolf Pack football team

Joe Santoro
For the Nevada Appeal

The Nevada Wolf Pack football team will play at Oregon this year, at Penn State and South Florida next year, at California and Kansas State in 2021, at Iowa in 2022 and at USC in 2023. That is all well and good if you are a Wolf Pack fan living in or near any of those places or a deep-pocketed Pack booster who enjoys sitting with a few hundred or so other Pack fans in a stadium that seats 60,000 or more. But where does that leave the rest of us? We get to watch the Pack take on such powers as UC Davis, UTEP, Texas State, Incarnate Word, Idaho State, New Mexico State and Weber State at Mackay Stadium through the 2023 season. The most interesting non-conference opponent (Purdue) coming to Mackay Stadium over the next five seasons takes place in about 40 days. After that, well, that yard always needs mowing in the fall.

•••

Coaches at mid-major institutions enjoy earning a half a million dollars or more a year so schools like Nevada will continue to strive to play at huge stadiums on the road in order to take home one or two fat paychecks a year. Those same coaches also enjoy winning at least six games a year so the Nevadas of the world will also continue to play glorified scrimmages at home against the likes of Weber State, Idaho State, Incarnate Word and New Mexico State. Hey, if the big boys of college football won’t let you compete for a national title, you might as well try to make some money.

•••

We could witness the Wolf Pack’s first perfect, unbeaten or untied home season since 2010. Yes, it’s been that long. Before that it was 1996 when Jeff Tisdel was coach. Former coach Chris Ault, who manufactured five perfect home seasons (1976, 1985, 1990, 1994 and 2010), always understood the value of winning at home when it comes to selling tickets. It was even more important in Ault’s era when few if any road games were televised back to Northern Nevada. Ault’s philosophy was that if you never allowed the home folks to actually see you lose, well, they would continue to buy tickets. Can the Pack go unbeaten at home this year? The toughest tests will come in the opener against Purdue and in the final regular season game against UNLV. In between there are four glorified home scrimmages against Weber State, Hawaii, San Jose State and New Mexico. If your two toughest home games are against Purdue and UNLV, well, perfection is a distinct possibility.

•••

A lot of Wolf Pack fans have told me in recent years that they miss the Pistol offense. I usually replay by telling them I miss Colin Kaepernick and Cody Fajardo. The pistol, for the most part, was a sleep-inducing, boring, unimaginative offense until Cody and Colin simply kept the ball and ran to the end zone. The Wolf Pack’s current Air Raid offense is a breath of fresh air. It is certainly not as reliable and efficient as the pistol but it is never boring or predictable. And we have yet to see it in Reno with a quarterback like Kaepernick or Fajardo.

•••

Kaepernick, by the way, will turn 32 years old on Nov. 3. When he came to Nevada in the summer of 2006 he was 18. He hasn’t played a down of football since the 2016 season. The Wolf Pack hasn’t been meaningful on a national scale since he left after the 2010 season. It’s time the Wolf Pack hires him as quarterbacks coach so he can teach them how to run to the end zone.

•••

There are few things more meaningless in college football than the so-called national award watch lists. Does anybody really think that the Doak Walker and Maxwell Award folks are watching Toa Taua all that closely? They should be watching him (Taua is clearly one of the best dozen or so backs in the country) but Taua has as much chance of winning those awards as the Wolf Pack has of being invited to the college football playoff. The people who give out these awards aren’t actually watching anybody but Power Five conference players. Sticking a Wolf Pack player on a watch list for a national award is like putting a high school drama club student on the watch list for an Academy Award.

•••

The San Francisco Giants heading into Thursday’s game had won 12 of their last 14 games. At 47-49 on the year the Giants, like every team in the National League not based in Miami, are in the wild card hunt. This latest string of victories might be the worst thing to happen to the Giants since Barry Bonds got old. Is a chance at a one-game playoff in the wild card round enough incentive for the Giants to be buyers this month instead of sellers by the July 31 trade deadline? Let’s hope not. The wild card is baseball’s big lie. It gives false hope to teams hovering at or even below .500. The wild card round is baseball’s Arizona Bowl. Let’s hope Giants management is not fooled by the team’s recent success. The Giants need to trade each and every player on the roster over the next 10 days or so that can bring back some young, fresh talent with potential.