Joe Santoro: No excuse for Pack to lose
November 2, 2018
Sports fodder …
There's absolutely no logical, rational or sane excuse for the Nevada Wolf Pack football team to lose any of its final three regular season games. Colorado State, San Jose State and UNLV are three of the worst Division I-A teams in the nation with a combined record of 6-19. None of the six victories have come against a team with a winning record. UNLV has only beaten a Division I-AA team and winless UTEP. San Jose State has only beaten UNLV. Colorado State has only beaten San Jose State, the worst team in the SEC (Arkansas) and New Mexico, a team that has only beaten UNLV, a struggling independent (New Mexico State) and Incarnarte Word, a 10-year-old football program. Colorado State, San Jose State and UNLV are the three worst teams in the Mountain West in allowing points (nearly 40 points a game for all three). The goal for the Pack these next three games shouldn't only be three victories, it should be 150 points.
The only question remaining for the Wolf Pack football team this season is whether or not it can end the season with six consecutive victories and finish with a 9-4 record. Only one team in the entire history of Wolf Pack football has ever ended a season with a winning streak of six games or longer (the 2010 team won its last seven). Just five teams in the Wolf Pack's Division I-A history (since 1992) have won nine or more games in a season (1994-96, 2005 and 2010). Of course, the ninth victory this year has to come in a bowl game and, well, bowl success is never a sure thing at Nevada. But even an eight-win season is something to celebrate at Nevada since just six teams (the five with nine wins plus 2006) have done it since 1992.
The Wolf Pack's football success should continue through at least next season. Seniors like Ty Gangi, Malik Reed, Asauni Rufus, Dameon Baber and Korey Rush will have to be replaced (a new starting quarterback will be the biggest concern) but the schedule in 2019 is manageable. The Wolf Pack doesn't have to play Boise State or Air Force the next two seasons. And the home schedule in 2019 will be just one long tailgate party with Weber State, Purdue, Hawaii, New Mexico, UNLV and San Jose State coming to town.
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Should we be worried about the Wolf Pack men's basketball team's 3-point shooting? The Pack shot just 10-of-48 (21 percent) from beyond the arc in its two exhibition games against Washington and San Francisco State. That's bad enough to make coach Eric Musselman change the name of his dog from Swish to Brick. Steph Curry could do that shooting with his left foot from mid-court. Caleb Martin was 4-of-17, newcomer Corey Henson was 0-for-10. A year ago the Pack shot .392 on threes, led by Kendall Stephens (.432) and Hallice Cooke (.478). It was a huge reason why the Pack won 29 games. But Stephens and Cooke are now gone.
The good news is the Wolf Pack shouldn't rely on its 3-point shooting this year to win games as much as it did a year ago. Take away Stephens and Cooke and the rest of the Pack roster last year combined to shoot 35 percent on threes. That will be good enough to win a lot of games this year. If all goes according to plan, the Pack should be able to score in the paint this year. Caleb Martin isn't going to miss 13 of every 17 3-pointers he tosses up this year. We imagine Henson won't miss 10 in a row again this year and other newcomers like Jazz Johnson, Nisre Zouzoua and Tre'Shawn Thurman will step up as the season progresses. That's the plan.
Wolf Pack football attendance continues to be a red flag that needs to be addressed. Just 14,545 showed up to see the 28-24 win over San Diego State last Saturday. The Pack is averaging 17,866 this season for a home schedule that included Oregon State, San Diego State, Boise State and Fresno State. Just two teams in the Mountain West are averaging fewer fans (San Jose State and UNLV) than the Pack. Is this what fan interest in Wolf Pack football has become, dragging the bottom of a mediocre Division I-A conference with San Jose State and UNLV? The Bay Area isn't even aware San Jose State still has a football program and UNLV is, well, UNLV. If you want to compete with Fresno State, Boise State and San Diego State year after year, and not simply on one random Saturday night once in a while when everything falls into place, you must draw fans like Boise State, San Diego State and Fresno State (all 30,000 plus).
We don't blame the Northern Nevada community for not packing Mackay Stadium. The games are all on television or the internet. You simply don't have to go to a game to see it. Parking is like dealing with Black Friday every weekend. The ticket prices have gotten silly. It's college football. Not Sammy Davis at the Sands. The games never end and are just one endless incomplete pass, timeout, TV commercial, injury timeout, officials review and penalties. It has been estimated in a typical 3 1/2-hour football game there's a mere 15 minutes of action. That seems a bit high. And no matter where you sit the action always seems to be 50 yards away from you. Come to think of it, 17,866 a game isn't so bad after all.
And then there are the horrendous 7:30 p.m. starts. Who wants to go sit in a college football stadium until almost midnight and then have to go find your car in the middle of the night? Even worse, who wants to sit around all day on a Saturday waiting to go to a college football game at night? Thanks to the evils of television, which have ruined college sports for the fans who actually go to games, the Pack will play its fourth consecutive 7:30 p.m. start next Saturday against Colorado State. Only one other Pack season (2014) has featured four consecutive 7:30 p.m. kickoffs since the dreaded lights were installed in 2003. The Wolf Pack started just four games at 7:30 or later (the Boise State game in 2010 started at 7:26) when it was in the Western Athletic Conference through the 2011 season. Since joining the Mountain West (the Midnight West?), the Pack has had no less than 14 (including next Saturday) midnight madness games start 7:30 p.m. or later in seven seasons. Make it stop.
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