Time for Nevada Wolf Pack to change coaches? No, Joe Santoro says | NevadaAppeal.com

Time for Nevada Wolf Pack to change coaches? No, Joe Santoro says

Joe Santoro
For the Nevada Appeal
Nevada coach Jay Norvell, center, leads his team onto the field to face Weber State for an NCAA college football game in Reno, Nev., Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Lance Iversen)
AP | FR1171256 AP

Sports fodder…

Good news, Nevada Wolf Pack football fans. The bleeding should now be over. Your Wolf Pack won’t likely lose another game this season by 25 or more points. Why is that good news? Well, in case you stopped paying attention after that 77-6 bloodbath administered by the Oregon Ducks two months ago or the 54-3 execution at the hands of the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors a month ago, the Pack has already lost four games this year by 25 or more points. Just three other seasons (2000 with six and 1950 and 1975 with five each) in school history have had more blowout losses. But that ugliness is over. We think. The Pack only has to deal with football-challenged schools New Mexico (this Saturday night) and UNLV (Nov. 30) at home and Fresno State and San Diego State on the road the rest of this regular season. San Diego State is the most competent of that struggling bunch by far but the Aztecs haven’t beaten anyone by 25 or more since 2017. No, the Pack isn’t getting any better. The opposite, in fact, is true. It’s just that the schedule has just finally gotten more Pack-friendly.

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There have already been whispers, along with e-mails and numerous social media posts, that suggest Jay Norvell just might not be the right head coach to lead the Wolf Pack to the promised land. Stop it. It is far too early for that sort of talk. First of all, Norvell isn’t going anywhere right now. He still has two years left on his contract after this season. Also, don’t forget, the Wolf Pack is 4-4 right now and likely headed to another bowl game. You don’t get fired at Nevada for going to bowl games. Granted, Wolf Pack football has been a harrowing rollercoaster ride during Norvell’s tenure. And he has made a lot of mistakes, like repeatedly failing to decide on one starting quarterback for long when he actually has a choice (or, at least, thinks he has a choice). Norvell’s fascination with Malik Henry appears over for now so Carson Strong is the guy at quarterback moving forward. Norvell is best when he doesn’t have a choice at quarterback (like with Ty Gangi last year). He can stop obsessing about the quarterback and focus on other things. So check back a year from now. If the Pack is still flailing around .500 or below and getting blown out with disturbing regularity, then it might be time to just move on from Coach Grit. But not now.

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The one area that Norvell should look at very closely over the remainder of this season, though, is the offense. The Air Raid under offensive coordinator Matt Mumme is at the root of the Pack’s inconsistencies in the Norvell era. The offense hasn’t played with any sort of consistency all season long. The first two years it showed up one week and disappeared the next. During its 33-game era at Nevada the Air Raid has basically shredded awful teams and curled up in the fetal position against good teams. That’s not how you get to the promised land. That’s how you get stuck in mediocrity with home crowds under 20,000. If the offense does not show marked improvement over the next four games (especially against awful New Mexico, UNLV, Fresno State defenses) it might be time to dig a hole somewhere near Stead and bury the Air Raid. A new offense, one that somehow combines the grit, toughness and tenacity that Norvell is always preaching about with a bit of the old Air Wolf explosiveness the Pack had in the 1990s, might be what gets Norvell a second contract at Nevada.

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Finding a quarterback to run the Air Raid is not easy. Finding a quarterback to run the Pistol offense, as the Pack found out after Cody Fajardo graduated, was also not easy. The Pack needs to find an offense that the type of quarterbacks it can recruit can actually run. Every single year. The Air Raid, it seems, has a steep learning curve that gobbles up inexperienced quarterbacks.

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The Wolf Pack men’s basketball team, as expected, whipped its two exhibition opponents (Cal State East Bay and Colorado Christian) the past two weeks by an average of 30 points. Jalen Harris scored 47 points in 55 minutes over the two games and appears to be the Pack’s best player. But the best news to come out of the glorified scrimmages is that Lindsey Drew appears ready to be a major contributor this year. The fifth-year guard has missed the Pack’s last 44 games since February 2018 because of various injuries but he had 16 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists over 54 minutes in the two exhibitions. That’s the sort of production we were used to seeing from Drew before he got hurt. Harris might end up being the top scorer on this Pack team but Drew could very well be the most valuable player on the roster by far.

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We just witnessed one of the more remarkable postseason runs in baseball history. The Washington Nationals were 19-31 on May 23 and went on to claim a wild card spot in the playoffs by winning 74 of their final 112 regular season games. The Nationals then beat the Milwaukee Brewers in the wild card game, won a Game 5 in Los Angeles to eliminate the Dodgers in the NLDS and swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS to get to the World Series. Washington then became the first team in baseball history to win four road games in a single World Series. And they did it with four former Reno Aces (Patrick Corbin, Adam Eaton, Daniel Hudson and Gerardo Parra) on the roster. Corbin got the win in Game 7 and Hudson was on the mound and Eaton was in right field for the final out.

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Do the Miami Dolphins understand that the reward for tanking this NFL season will be Joe Burrow of LSU, Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama or maybe Justin Herbert of Oregon? And that is if the No. 1 pick is a quarterback. Notice we didn’t list Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, John Elway or Joe Montana. Is there really a player in this draft worth tanking for? The NFL is not the NBA, where one player can instantly turn you into a playoff team. If you throw away a season in the NFL it might take you half a decade or more just to get back to respectability. The winless Cincinnati Bengals will play the winless Dolphins in Miami on Dec. 22 in the Tank Bowl, by the way. Maybe the NFL should ship that game off to London, too.

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The Golden State Warriors’ run of five consecutive NBA Finals appearances is over. The Warriors likely weren’t getting to the Finals this year before Steph Curry broke his left hand on Wednesday night anyway. But now they might be headed to the lottery. The Warriors couldn’t stop anybody with Curry. And now they might not be able to score until he comes back. Golden State, now 1-3, seems headed to its worst season since it went 23-43 in 2011-12, when Curry was in his third year and Klay Thompson was in his rookie year. The two will be in expensive suits at the end of the bench as the Warriors play their first season back in San Francisco.