Joe Santoro: Nevada Wolf Pack wins when Romeo Doubs scores | NevadaAppeal.com
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Joe Santoro: Nevada Wolf Pack wins when Romeo Doubs scores

By Joe Santoro For the Nevada Appeal
Nevada wide receiver Romeo Doubs (7) gets chased by Hawaii linebacker Darius Muasau (53) during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

It was easy to see the importance of Romeo Doubs to the Nevada Wolf Pack’s offense over the first five games of this season. All you had to do was look in the end zone and then at the scoreboard. Doubs had nine touchdowns, scoring at least once in the Pack’s first five games. And the Pack was 5-0. At one point Doubs scored seven of the Wolf Pack’s nine touchdowns over a three-game span against Utah State, New Mexico and San Diego State. But who knew he was this important? Doubs has not scored in the Pack’s last three games, averaging 5.7 catches, 61 yards and no touchdowns a game, down 1.5 catches, 95 yards and nearly two touchdowns a game from the first five games. With Doubs stopping short of the end zone on each of his 17 catches the last three games, the Pack has lost twice, ruining its perfect season and falling short of even playing in the Mountain West championship game. Doubs has scored touchdowns in 10 different games during his three-year career and the Wolf Pack has won all 10 of those games. When Doubs has not scored over the past three years the Pack is 11-13.

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Why, exactly, is there a Famous Idaho Potato Bowl during a pandemic? Why is there a New Mexico Bowl, a ridiculous game between a 4-4 team (Hawaii) and a 3-4 team (Houston) that has had to be moved to Frisco, Texas because of, you guessed it, the pandemic. Playing college football games during a pandemic was always going to be a selfish, careless, risky, naïve undertaking. The Mountain West hardly went a week this season without at least one game canceled because players had contracted a life-threatening disease. But athletic directors wanted the television money and the coaches and players wanted to play because, well, what’s the point of even being in college unless there’s a football game to be played? But at least there was something to play for during the regular season. It wasn’t worth risking your life over but, hey, it was something. But bowl games are simply careless in a pandemic. Bowl games, even in a normal year, are meaningless nonsense, staged simply for television money and to pamper already spoiled players with gifts and coddled coaches with bonuses. But this, stop me if you’ve heard this one before, is not a normal year. Our country, believe it or not, is still in a pandemic. We have been told to all do our part in keeping everyone safe by not visiting with relatives and friends during the Christmas holidays. But football players can still get on a plane and travel to far-away cities to play a full contact sport that means absolutely nothing simply because some sponsor wants to see its name on ESPN for three hours. Is that the NCAA’s way of keeping everyone safe or simply keeping everyone spoiled and pampered?



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Jay Norvell, as he usually does, threw his players under the blame bus after the stunning 30-20 loss to San Jose State last Friday night. When the Pack wins, Norvell tells everyone about the excellent character, work ethic, maturity and leadership his players exhibit on a daily basis, not to mention all of the life sacrifices they make to go to school for free and play football. Nobody works harder, he’ll tell you without being asked, in practice than his players and no coaching staff prepares its players better. But the Pack lost on Friday in its most important game in a decade and Norvell told us that his players weren’t tough enough mentally and physically and didn’t respond to the challenge. He also told us he is excited to add players in recruiting “that will get us over the hump and win those types of games and put us at a different level as a program.” Here is what really happened last Friday night. Those mentally and physically weak players handed Norvell and his staff a 20-7 lead at halftime. And the players weren’t the only ones who didn’t respond in the second half.



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The San Jose State game was the Wolf Pack’s biggest and most important since it beat Boise State 34-31 in overtime on Nov. 26, 2010. The San Jose State game was for the first conference title game appearance in Nevada school history. It also would have set up a meeting with Boise State with a title on the line. A Boise State-Nevada title game would have been an even bigger game than in 2010. In 2010 it was a regular season game and wasn’t even the final game of the regular season. The Pack beat Boise State in 2010 but still had to share the Western Athletic Conference title in 2010 with the Broncos and Hawaii. Boise State also was still ranked higher than the Wolf Pack even after losing at Nevada. There would have been no sharing of the Mountain West title this season if the Pack beat Boise State.

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There were a lot of comparisons between that 2010 team and this year’s team, especially after this year’s team started 5-0. Those comparisons, of course, were always silly, uninformed and ignorant. Those comparisons were also extremely disrespectful to that great 2010 team and what it accomplished, beating Cal, BYU, Boise State, UNLV, Boston College and others. The legendary players on that team are now Wolf Pack icons. But the coaching staff on that team has never gotten its due. It was a great coaching staff that included head coach Chris Ault and assistants Ken Wilson, Andy Buh, Jim Mastro, Cameron Norcross, Barry Sacks, Mike Bradeson, Scott Baumgartner, James Spady and James Ward. That staff bled Wolf Pack silver and blue. Given that staff a 20-7 lead at halftime in an empty Sam Boyd Stadium against San Jose State in the biggest game of the year and it would have dragged this 2020 team across the finish line and into the conference title game. By the end of that game that team, you can be sure, would have been mentally and physically tough enough.

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Norvell gave us his formula for a championship team this week. “It starts with building a championship defense,” he said. This is from a guy who has obsessed about his offense, collecting quarterbacks and wide receivers like a 5-year-old collecting eggs on Easter Sunday, since the first day he came to Nevada four years ago. Was that just his way of subtly putting the blame for the loss against San Jose State on the defense and not his precious Air Raid offense? That offense, by the way, didn’t score a point in the second half. Maybe Norvell should have started building that championship defense a little sooner.

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Norvell also said this week that he wants a pass rusher at defensive end, some linebackers “who can really run” and a great cover cornerback. Yeah, and Donald Trump wants another election day. “A difference maker on defense would be big for us, at each level (the line, linebackers, secondary),” he said. Norvell sounded like that 5-year-old sitting on Santa’s knee asking for a pony, train set and new baseball glove for Christmas. Let’s hope he gets everything he asks for because if all three things show up under his tree next Friday morning he won’t even have to coach next year.

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The Wolf Pack has had a lot of great pass rushers over the last two decades or so. Dontay Moch, Malik Reed, Kevin Basped, Ian Seau, Brock Hekking, Brett Roy, J.J. Milan, Ezra Butler, Lenny Jones and Jorge Cordova come quickly to mind. The Pack, though, has just 15 sacks this year in eight games and had just 23 in 13 games in 2019. The only true elite pass rusher Norvell has recruited to Nevada is tackle Dom Peterson. Norvell received the gift of Malik Reed from former coach Brian Polian in his first two seasons at Nevada. Polian also left him Korey Rush, Gabe Sewell and Sam Hammond. It’s time Norvell builds a pass rush to help form that championship defense.

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Discipline might also become a Norvell priority if he wants to build a consistent champion at Nevada. Norvell is obviously a players’ coach and, well, the Pack has struggled with maturity and discipline throughout his four seasons, committing an abundance of penalties, dropping passes and fumbling the ball away at crucial times. And who will ever forget that ridiculous fight with UNLV at Mackay last season? The Wolf Pack has led the Mountain West over the past three seasons with 235 penalties with an alarming 158 coming the last two years.