Joe Santoro: MW hasn’t done Pack any favors | NevadaAppeal.com

Joe Santoro: MW hasn’t done Pack any favors

Joe Santoro
Special to the Appeal

The Mountain West has not handed the Nevada Wolf Pack football team any favors this season when it comes to the schedule. The Pack must play Fresno State and Boise State, arguably the best two teams in the conference, the next two weeks. West Division favorite Fresno State comes to Mackay Stadium this Saturday while Mountain Division favorite Boise State comes to town on Oct. 13. It is just the fifth time in history that the Wolf Pack has had to play the Bulldogs and Broncos in back-to-back weeks. It happened before in 1983, 2002, 2004 and 2007 and the Pack lost seven of those eight games, though the 2007 games (both high-scoring, wild losses) signaled the birth of the Colin Kaepernick era. So, yes, a lot of positive things can come out of the next two games for the Pack. The good news this year is that this is the first time in school history that the Wolf Pack has played Fresno State and Boise State in back-to-back weeks both at home. It is time for the Mackay football gods to work their magic once again.

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Don't get nervous, Wolf Pack football fans. Nothing will be decided this Saturday night when Fresno State comes to Mackay Stadium. A Wolf Pack victory will not put the Pack in the Mountain West title game and a loss won't keep them out. Fresno State will still have difficult tests against Boise State, San Diego State and Hawaii after meeting the Pack. And the Pack will still have to deal with Boise State, Hawaii and San Diego State. It is likely no team in the West Division will go unbeaten in conference play this season. The top four teams (Nevada, Fresno State, Hawaii, San Diego State), after all, all must play Boise State and all four must play each other. There's a good chance the West Division winner will have at least two losses and it will come down to tiebreakers. The conference has only been split into two divisions since 2013 and the West Division champ — San Diego State (6-2) in 2016 and Fresno State and San Diego State (both 5-3) in 2014 — has had two or more losses two times already.

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Every team in college football, it seems, can score points in bunches. The Pack, which averages 38.2 points a game, is no exception. So the key to any championship just might turn out to be defense. Go figure. The Wolf Pack has allowed 30 or more points in an alarming 12 of the 17 games in the head coach Jay Norvell era. Last year's team, which finished 3-9, allowed 30 or more nine times, equaling the most in school history with the 2000 team that finished 2-10 under Chris Tormey. Norvell's Wolf Pack has allowed 30 or more in 71 percent of its games over the last two years. Brian Polian's teams (2013-2016) allowed 30 or more 24 times over 50 games (48 percent). Tormey's teams did it in 26-of-54 games (48 percent). Chris Ault's teams from 2004-12 did it in 50 of 116 games (43 percent) while Jeff Tisdel's teams (1996-1999) allowed 30-plus in 19-of-45 (42 percent). Norvell's teams, by the way, are 5-0 when they allow under 30 (1-11 when they don't).

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The Wolf Pack might want to toss the football Elijah Cook's way a bit more often. Cooks' last three catches have all gone for touchdowns. He had a 22-yard touchdown catch at Toledo two weeks ago and last week he caught a 63-yard score and a 23-yarder at Air Force. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound sophomore wide receiver has just five catches in his Wolf Pack career and three have ended up in the end zone. He is averaging 24 yards on each of his five catches. Cooks, who had four fouls and a rebound in four total minutes last season for the Wolf Pack men's basketball team, might be a little extra motivated this Saturday against Fresno State. His father Adrian is a former Fresno State running back who gained 348 yards in three seasons from 1987-89. Can you smell what The Rock is cooking? The Pack needs to throw the rock to Cooks.

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A Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees postseason series might not get the Northern Nevada community buzzing. But it is always good for baseball. The national media, which obsesses about all things football (and all things LeBron James), hardly gives the sport of baseball the time of day anymore. The Fox Network, for example, will run a promo of an upcoming postseason baseball game it is televising, and the brain dead talk show hosts will then come back on the air and start talking about the Dallas Cowboys' playoff chances. Baseball, of course, is the greatest sport ever invented. The postseason drama is incredible. The Chicago Cubs-Colorado Rockies game this week, for example, was phenomenal and hardly any runs were scored. Football is just a series of random penalties, fumbles, interceptions, injuries, whining wide receivers and TV timeouts. But it appeals to the short-attention-span, Twitter-reading, cell-phone-obsessed, send-a-box-of-groceries-to-my-doorstep generation, so that's all we get from the national media. But if it takes a Yankees-Red Sox series for the national media to wake up and smell the horsehide, well, so much the better.

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C.J. Beathard just might end up saving this San Francisco 49ers' season after all. No, the 49ers are not going to make the playoffs. But they likely wouldn't have made the playoffs even with Jimmy Garoppolo. Beathard passed for 298 yards and two touchdowns last week against the Los Angeles Chargers in a 29-27 loss, giving hope that the 49ers, now 1-3, just might find a way to win six or seven games this year. All things considered, especially given the 49ers' recent history, that would be considered a successful season.

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The 49ers need to give Matt Breida the football. The former Georgia Southern running back just might be the best story in the NFL that nobody, not even the football obsessed national media, talks about. Breida wasn't drafted out of Georgia Southern, he is the adopted son of two disabled parents and nobody east of Vallejo knows who he is. Breida is averaging 7.6 yards on each of his 41 carries this year and he is third in the NFL in rushing behind just Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott.

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It is time to start considering Ty Gangi as one of the greatest quarterbacks in Wolf Pack history. Gangi will end up in the Top 10 in all significant statistical categories in school history for quarterbacks before his senior season comes to a close this year. He passed John Dutton to move into 10th place on the Pack's all-time list for career touchdown passes this past weekend with four touchdowns against Air Force (he now has 44). Gangi, who will only play roughly two full seasons in a Pack uniform, currently has 435 career completions for 5,379 yards and he still has at least seven games to play.