Joe Santoro: Nevada Wolf Pack’s Portlandia episode an important one
August 3, 2018
At first glance, the Nevada Wolf Pack football team's season-opening game on Aug. 31 at Mackay Stadium against Portland State appears to be nothing more than a glorified scrimmage. A satisfying tailgate meal on a warm summer night followed by a rousing touchdown-filled victory. The perfect Wolf Pack football evening. Portland State, a Division I-AA team, went 0-11 a year ago. The Vikings have lost 13 games in a row and 19 of 22. Meaningless game for the Pack? Far from it. The game just might be the most important for the Wolf Pack this season. A loss, coming off of last year's disappointing 3-9 record that included a disturbing 30-28 loss to I-AA Idaho State in Reno, could devastate Jay Norvell's second season as Pack head coach. It would destroy attendance at Mackay Stadium for the rest of the season. It simply can't happen.
A victory over Portland State wouldn't guarantee the Wolf Pack a spot in the national championship game against Alabama. It wouldn't earn the Pack even a single Top 25 vote. And hardly anyone outside of Northern Nevada will even take notice of what happens on Aug. 31 at Mackay Stadium. But it will do some important things for Norvell and his program. It would show improvement over a year ago and finally wipe away some of the stench of last year's loss to Idaho State. It would give Norvell his first winning record as Pack head coach. And it will give the Pack confidence heading into tougher non-league games against Vanderbilt, Oregon State and Toledo in September. So, yes, games against 0-11 Division I-AA teams do have value.
The left side of the Cleveland Browns' offensive line might have a Wolf Pack flavor this season. Joel Bitonio, now in his fifth year with the Browns, is moving from left guard to left tackle and rookie Austin Corbett is being groomed at left guard. Both were drafted out of Nevada in the second round in 2014 (Bitonio) and last spring (Corbett). And now both are being told to learn new positions. Bitonio has been one of the top guards in the NFL the last four years while Corbett played tackle at Nevada. The changes this summer are due to the retirement of long-time Browns tackle Joe Thomas, who told NFL.com last month he didn't think Corbett had the athletic ability to play tackle in the NFL. The Browns seem to be taking his advice.
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Is all of the hype and excitement surrounding Jimmy Garoppolo justified? The 49ers think so. They made Garoppolo one of the highest-paid players in the NFL last February by giving him a five-year, $137.5 million contract. Hey, if Nick Foles can win a Super Bowl, why not Jimmy G? Why not, indeed. It's OK to believe in the hype and get excited. Garoppolo has won all seven of his NFL starts while throwing for 2,250 yards and 12 touchdowns in his career. He took a 1-10 49ers team last year and won five games in a row. By comparison, Joe Montana went 2-6 in his first eight career starts and Steve Young was 3-16. Expect the 49ers to be in the playoff hunt this year thanks to Garoppolo.
Garoppolo, though, has some winning to do to match the career start of another former 49er quarterback. Colin Kaepernick was 17-6 as a starter to begin his career and came within a touchdown pass of winning a Super Bowl. Kaepernick, who also won four of his first six playoff starts, was seemingly changing how the position of quarterback was being played. All Garoppolo has done so far is win some meaningless games at the end of a bad season. The league adjusted to Kaepernick (he was 11-24 as a starter his final three years) and now the former Pack quarterback is out of the league. It's not how you start in the NFL that counts.
Congratulations to the Montreux Golf and Country Club for making sure Northern Nevada has had a PGA event for two decades in a row. The Barracuda Championship, which was formerly called the Reno-Tahoe Open and The Legends at Sparks Marina, is now in its 20th year. The event has survived two decades despite always playing opposite another more prestigious PGA event. It has survived without featuring any of the top names in golf. It has survived in recent years despite its goofy Modified Stableford Scoring system. It has survived because it features great golf and is always one of the most interesting and fun weekends on the Northern Nevada sporting calendar.
What, exactly, are the San Francisco Giants doing? The Giants are stuck in baseball limbo, neither rebuilding or trying to win championships. The roster is made up of aging stars that can't stay healthy and young players that can't seemingly stay in the big leagues. It's time to break it down and start over. Do the honorable thing and allow Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner to spend the last productive years of their careers with organizations that have a chance to win. Rid the organization of injury-prone dead weights such as Jeff Samardzija, Hunter Pence, Joe Panik, Andrew McCutchen, Pablo Sandoval, Mark Melancon and Evan Longoria. Giants fans deserve better.
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