Joe Santoro: No identity for Nevada Wolf Pack offense | NevadaAppeal.com

Joe Santoro: No identity for Nevada Wolf Pack offense

Joe Santoro
For the Nevada Appeal
Nevada head coach Jay Norvell talks with quarterback Carson Strong during the Nov. 2 game against New Mexico in Reno.
Tom R. Smedes/AP | FR171463 AP

Head coach Jay Norvell revealed this week that he is now calling the plays for his Nevada Wolf Pack football team. Is that a good or bad thing? Well, it’s probably not a good thing for offensive coordinator Matt Mumme. We’re also not all that sure it is good for the offense. The Pack, after all, scored just 21 points against an awful defense (New Mexico) last Saturday. The offense looked lifeless and unimaginative and frightened to make a mistake. But that was probably by design. The Pack didn’t turn the ball over and didn’t give the game away, which has been a problem with the Mumme-called offense. New Mexico, after all, couldn’t find the end zone without Google Maps so why lead them there by hand? We’ll find out more about Norvell’s imagination on offense this Saturday night at San Diego State. If he plays it as conservatively against San Diego State as he did against New Mexico the Pack will be lucky to cross midfield.

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Norvell came to Nevada with the reputation of being an offensive guru. Well, sort of. He didn’t have his own offense to speak of (like Chris Ault with the Pistol, June Jones and Mouse Davis with the Run and Shoot or the Mumme family and Mike Leach with the Air Raid) but he was the offensive coordinator at Power Five schools. But it must also be noted that the few times Norvell was allowed to call plays in his career, it never seemed to end well. He was fired by his old Iowa Hawkeyes teammate and buddy Bob Stoops at Oklahoma. He was demoted by Charlie Strong at Texas. He was fired along with the rest of the staff after just one year at UCLA. At Nebraska Norvell was the offensive coordinator but head coach Bill Callahan was mainly responsible for calling plays. He interviewed at Arizona State to become offensive coordinator but the Sun Devils hired someone else (Chip Lindsey) for the job and then hired Norvell to coach the wide receivers and coordinate the passing game. Mumme’s play calling has been spotty at best the past two-plus seasons so we understand Norvell taking over. But it might not be a permanent solution.

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Have we seen the beginning of the end of Mumme’s Air Raid offense at Nevada? Norvell, throughout his time at Nevada, has always rolled his eyes, smiled and chuckled a bit when someone has asked him about the Air Raid, you know, as if we invented the term. So it hasn’t been difficult to figure out that Norvell hasn’t been all that thrilled with the Air Raid the past three seasons. Mumme’s Air Raid, after all, has chewed up its quarterbacks at Nevada, allowing the Pack to run some watered-down version of the Air Raid. Well, now we have Norvell running that watered-down offense. It is difficult to believe Mumme will stick around if Norvell doesn’t allow him to call plays. Also, could Mumme even call plays without his trusty Air Raid playbook? Right now the Pack has an offense without an identity, a cute nickname or even many points. That clearly has to change.

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What, exactly, did we learn about the Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball team during its 79-74 season-opening loss to Utah on Tuesday? Well, not much. The reason for the lack of information was that it felt like we didn’t actually get to see the Wolf Pack. Jalen Harris, supposedly one of the team’s top scorers, injured his foot and played just eight minutes. And foul trouble also forced most of the Pack players to play as if one of their arms were tied behind their back. Freshman Zane Meeks was called for three fouls in a span of three minutes in the first half and played just 12 minutes. Freshman K.J. Hymes played just six minutes the entire game and was called for five fouls. Johncarlos Reyes fouled out. Jazz Johnson, Meeks and Kane Milling each had four fouls. New coach Steve Alford wasn’t coaching as much as he was simply playing musical chairs and waiting to see who had fallen on the floor after the music stopped. The loss to the Utes didn’t mean much of anything. Hopefully.

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The one thing that did have some meaning (hopefully) was the play of Lindsey Drew. Drew, who had not played since February 2018 because of injuries, scored a career-high 30 points against Utah and also led the team with eight assists, five 3-pointers, six rebounds and 12 field goals. The quiet point guard, for the most part, played his first three seasons at Nevada content to simply lob passes to Cam Oliver, Marcus Marshall, Cody and Caleb Martin, Tyron Criswell, Jordan Caroline and D.J. Fenner. Drew averaged just five shots and 6.4 points a game in a Wolf Pack uniform before Tuesday night. Against Utah he threw up 19 shots. This is his team now.

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It is difficult to determine just how far the expectations have fallen for the Pack basketball team. Nobody expects the team to come anywhere close to last year’s 29-5 record. And after Tuesday the Pack has already lost as many games at home (one) as it did over the last three seasons (two) combined. But nobody also expects the program to fall back to the year before Eric Musselman took over as coach. Musselman, don’t forget, took over a program that went 9-22 in 2014-15 and led it to three NCAA tournaments in four seasons. A reasonable expectation for this Pack team is about 18-20 wins as long as the foul trouble and injuries don’t continue.

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San Francisco 49ers fans shouldn’t make any plans to buy Super Bowl tickets just yet. Yes, the team is 8-0 and more than likely headed to the playoffs. But it’s still an even bet whether or not the 49ers will even win their division. The 49ers still have to play the Seattle Seahawks twice and the Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Ravens, New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams once. We might be looking at a 2-6 second half and a wild card game.

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Musselman won his first game at Arkansas, 91-43, over Rice. He is still tweeting about the Muss Bus (it’s now painted red instead of blue) and he is still telling the media after games about how many passes his team made in the game. Against Rice it was 254, “the most passes I have ever had a college team have,” Musselman said. Take that, Cody and Caleb. And, by the way, a crowd of 17,274 showed up at Bud Walton Arena to see the win over Rice which is slightly more than the 5,896 that saw Musselman’s Nov. 25, 2016 debut at Lawlor Events Center in a 76-73 win over Portland State.