JOE SANTORO: Two more steps and the Pack can be considered great
For the Nevada Appeal
Some college football teams are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.
The Nevada Wolf Pack, according to their spin control head coach, doesn’t qualify for greatness on any of the above conditions.
Not yet, at least.
“We’re not a great football team,” head coach Chris Ault said after the Wolf Pack’s 34-31 overtime victory over Boise State last weekend. “We’re just a hardworking, blue collar football team.”
Ault, you must understand, certainly doesn’t want anybody to slap an annoying “great” label on his football team right now. There’s still a piece of the Western Athletic Conference championship to be claimed Saturday at Louisiana Tech. There is still a bowl game to be won.
“We haven’t won anything yet,” Ault reminded us all this week.
The 30,712 fans at Mackay Stadium on Friday would disagree. The 28,809 who were at Mackay back in September to see the Pack crush California would also object to that statement. It’s been said that great things are accomplished when men and mountains meet. Well, the Pack met its Cal and Boise State mountains this year and promptly planted its silver and blue flag on the summit both times.
Some college football teams, don’t forget, achieve greatness. The Pack, so far, is one of those teams. Even Ault agreed last Friday night as Northern Nevada partied like a Black Friday shopper who just got an iPad for $19.99.
“It’s the greatest victory in the history of this university,” said Ault of the night the lights went out on Boise.
The greatest? There’s that word again. See, he started it. And now he wants to end it all before it gets out of hand.
“We’re darn good,” Ault said this week. “But we’re not great. We have to work for everything we get.”
So let’s hold off on thrusting greatness upon this football team right at this moment. A loss on Saturday, after all, and this Pack team will just be the answer to a couple of trivia questions. They’ll be the best WAC third-place team in Wolf Pack history. That and a dollar will get you a pull on a slot machine on Virginia Street.
“The Boise thing is beautiful but it doesn’t give you a chance to hold the trophy,” Ault said.
While it is important to refrain from calling any team great with two very important games yet to be played, it is equally important to know what is at stake in those two games. And the Wolf Pack, whether their head coach agrees or not, is definitely standing on the verge of greatness.
Greatness is so close the Pack is asking greatness to put on some deodorant. The Pack can hear greatness snoring in the bedroom across the hall. Greatness flushes its toilet and the water in the Pack’s shower turns ice cold.
That’s how close greatness is to the Pack.
“This is something I’ve wanted since I came here as a freshman,” tight end Virgil Green said. “We have to go out and get it.”
Green thought he was talking about a WAC championship. What he was really talking about is greatness. You can’t after all, achieve one without the other. And the Pack is merely two games away from greatness.
A victory on Saturday means a WAC title. That’s happened only one other time (2005) in school history. A bowl victory would end a frustrating four-game losing streak in college football’s postseason exhibition season. After those two victories, the Wolf Pack can move into greatness’ neighborhood, invite greatness over on Sunday to watch NFL football and join greatness’ regular Friday night poker party.
Two more victories and, yes, you just might have to call this the greatest Wolf Pack football team in history.
The Pack would have the greatest record in school history at 13-1. It would finish in the Top 25 nationally in all of the important polls. The Pack have a conference title and a bowl victory. And it would have more incredible where-were-you-when-that-happened moments than Forrest Gump.
That’s about as great as a Wolf Pack football team can get.
So you can understand why Ault doesn’t want to talk about such things right now. For him, it would be like talking about a no-hitter in the seventh inning.
You just don’t do it.
It’s important to understand that Ault believes in this football team as much as anyone. Maybe more than anyone. It’s why he gets so upset when he sees greatness about to slip away, like in the final two seconds of regulation time last Friday night.
“People have come up to me and said, ‘Boy, you must feel lucky he didn’t make that kick,'” said Ault of Boise’s Kyle Brotzman, who missed a 26-yard field goal as time expired in regulation that would have ended all of the Wolf Pack greatness talk. “I just said, ‘Are you kidding me? He shouldn’t have even gotten the chance to miss it. That was our fault.'”
When Ault says the Pack isn’t a great football team, he’s not questioning their accomplishments. He’s just speaking as a personnel director. He’s talking solely in terms of height, weight, talent, 100-yard dash times. He’s talking about the raw materials.
“Boise is a great football team,” Ault said. “Their personnel is better than ours. We’re not Boise.”
This is a good week to not be Boise.
“Boise is an exceptional football team,” Ault said. “We’re not there yet. We’re still climbing that mountain.”
Just two more steps to greatness.