Joe Santoro: Nevada Wolf Pack receivers have great names, great hands | NevadaAppeal.com
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Joe Santoro: Nevada Wolf Pack receivers have great names, great hands

By Joe Santoro For the Nevada Appeal

Why did the New England Patriots decide to sign Cam Newton instead of Colin Kaepernick? Kaepernick hasn’t played since 2016 but Newton was injured last year. Newton is 31-years-old and a little beat up. Kaepernick is 32 and fresh. Newton has completed 59.6 percent of his NFL passes while Kaepernick has connected 59.8 percent of the time. Newton has 182 touchdown passes and 108 interceptions while Kaepernick, in 56 fewer games, has 72 touchdowns and 30 picks. Newton has 4,806 yards rushing while Kaepernick, one of the greatest running quarterbacks in the history of the sport, has 2,300 yards on 559 fewer carries. Both took a team to a Super Bowl and lost. Both were drafted in 2011. They are basically the same quarterback except, of course, that Kaepernick has taken a knee during the anthem. We need the answers to just two questions now. Does Kaepernick really want to play? Does the NFL really want him on a roster? Until the answer to both those questions is yes, nothing else matters.

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They have two of the greatest names in college football and two of the greatest sets of hands. Romeo Doubs and Elijah Cooks, who have enough athletic ability to catch any pass thrown between Mount Rose Highway and Interstate 80, just might be the best wide receiving duo in college football. Of course, nobody outside the Mountain West knows that right now. But it won’t take long this fall for the rest of the country to figure it out. Doubs and Cooks combined for 120 catches, 1,575 yards and 12 touchdowns last year. And that was with an unsettled quarterback situation in the first half of the season. Everything is settled now. Carson Strong is going to lead the Mountain West in just about every passing statistic in 2020 and Doubs and Cooks will double their output from 2019.

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Doubs and Cooks have a legitimate chance to become the first Wolf Pack receiving duo to each go over 1,000 yards in the same season since Geoff Noisy (1,405 yards) and Trevor Insley (1,220) in 1998. Bryan Reeves (1,228) and Michael Stephens (1,062) also did it in 1993, Noisy (1,435) and Damond Wilkins (1,121) did it in 1996 and Noisy (1,184) and Insley (1,151) also did it in 1997. The Wolf Pack used to be a wide receiver factory. But the last Pack receiver to go over 1,000 yards in a season is Rishard Matthews (1,364) in 2011. Matthews and Marko Mitchell (1,129 in 2007 and 1,141 in 2008) are the only two Pack receivers since 2004) to reach 1,000 yards. That will change in 2020 with Strong, Doubs, Cooks and an Air Raid offense that is about to finally come to life.

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The most catches in one season by two teammates in Wolf Pack history is 212 by Wilkins (114) and Noisy (98) in 1996 (John Dutton was the quarterback). The most receiving yards by two teammates is 2,774 by Insley (2,060) and Cleavon Brooks (714) in 1999 (David Neill was the QB). Only once has a pair of Pack receivers each had 10 or more touchdown catches in the same season. Alex Van Dyke had 16 and Steve McHenry had 12 in 1995 (Mike Maxwell was the quarterback). Doubs and Cooks have the ability to equal or break all those records this year.

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Cooks has 14 touchdown catches among his 100 career catches, a touchdown rate of 14.0 percent. Marko Mitchell owns the Wolf Pack school record (since the school went to division I-A in 1992) at 14.4 percent (22 touchdowns, 153 catches) among those receivers with 20 or more touchdown catches. Adam Bishop has the Pack record for those with 10 or more career TD catches at 29.4 percent with 10 touchdowns among 34 catches (2004-07).

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Pack football coach Jay Norvell isn’t going to have to be concerned with the dwindling attendance at Mackay Stadium this year. Norvell has averaged roughly 17,000 fans in his three-year Pack career. Now that college stadiums will likely be limited to 50 percent capacity (at most) this season, Mackay Stadium will be limited to roughly 13,000 or so available seats. With a home schedule that includes UC Davis, UTEP, San Diego State, Fresno State, Utah State and Wyoming, the Pack would have been fortunate to average Norvell’s usual 17,000 fans this year even if all the seats were available.

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Remember how excited everyone was in 1992 when the Wolf Pack moved to Division I-A because it supposedly meant a more attractive home schedule? Well, the problem with a more attractive home schedule is that it likely means more home losses which, in turn, means dwindling home attendance. Interest in Pack football has not been this flat since the disastrous Chris Tormey era (2000-03). But at least fans showed up for the UNLV game when Tormey was coach (28,000 average for two games). Norvell’s UNLV crowds have averaged 17,021. There’s no UNLV, no Boise State, no Power Five opponent on the home schedule this year. The Wolf Pack needs to make sure there is at least one Power Five school, even a mediocre or bad Power Five school like Oregon State and Purdue, on the home schedule each year so it at least looks like they are trying to spice things up for the home crowd.