2008, The Season that Was
It's been awhile since we posted (a long while in fact) and you can blame it on the holidays and vacations and whatever else you like, but we thought we should at least do a little reflection on the past season before it's time to put the blog on full time hold til spring training camp.
The Wolf Pack finished one game better than the 2007 season (not what we were hoping for), lost to Boise, and lost their bowl game. If the goals of the team are to beat fUNLV, have a winning season, win the WAC, and win a bowl game, then they accomplished half of those. 50% is an F grade in elementary school, but we'll say it's a 2.0 out of 4.0 and call it a C grade. Average.
So what were the positives in the 2008 season?
- Win at Fresno (even though they weren't the same dogs everyone expected, that's a good road win in the WAC)
- Revenge on San Jose St for last year
- The "moral victories" of being the only team, again, to make BSU fans hold their breaths in the final seconds. For making 12 of the 13 games exciting for the fans (including the first ever Big 12 opponent in Mackay and a quality ACC opponent in the bowl game).
- A group of young talent that was supposedly the best recruit class ever living up to it's billing in what is only their sophomore season for most of them.
- An offense that showed it can be effective against anyone, anywhere.
- A defense that was able to get pressure on opposing QB's.
- A running back that came out of no where to lead the WAC when our team captain went down.
- The WAC offensive player of the year
- A number of long standing Wolf Pack records falling and others that will fall in the near future.
- The Humanitarian Bowl. (Shout out to all the Boise fans who came and supported the team and to the city itself. You guys just get it when comes to college football.)
- Many others that are to numerous to count.
And what were the negatives?
- Loss to New Mexico St at home (by far the low point in the season).
- Number 119 in pass defense (dead last and a major factor in many of the seasons negatives).
- Allowing Hawaii to go 80 yards in 90 seconds to pull out another close one on the island.
- No showing in the first half against BSU and allowing them to win, again.
- Clock management concerns.
- No showing on defense (and offense in the second half) at Mizzou.
- Special teams, especially in Hawaii and against Maryland.
- Missed opportunities in the passing game and specifically dropped passes in key situations.
- DUI's. (We know people make mistakes. We think the punishments fit. The kids just need to be smarter than that.)
- A few others that we are just forgetting about right now.
And what are we looking forward to in 2009?
- The Wolf Pack playing a Saturday afternoon game on NBC, against Notre Dame. There will be talk about this game on and off between now and Sept 5th. Hopefully there will be a whole lot of talk after it as the Pack hands Notre Dame their first loss of the 2009 season.
- The Pack welcoming it's second Big 12 opponent, and a chance to make amends for the no show in 2008, when Missouri comes to Mackay Stadium.
- Two opportunities to get WAC wins over the MWC when we play Colorado St and the red devils.
- Chris Ault's 200th win.
- Running roughshod over NMSU.
- A chance for a "third time's the charm" moment on the blue turf in Boise.
- A much improved secondary. (We're two wins better if they are just in the top 100. We will be real happy if they improve to about 85 or better. We try to not be too unrealistic around here.)
- How will Kaepernick follow up his 2008 fUNLV performance?
- An outright WAC championship!
And Some Parting Final Thoughts
The bowl game against Maryland appeared to be a summation of the 2008 season. We saw bad pass defense. We saw bad special teams. We saw missed opportunities in the pass game. We saw bad clock management. And we saw positives too. We saw the defense generate some turnovers. We saw the offense put up 35 points against an ACC team that defeated 4 ranked opponents during the season. We saw a good offensive game plan that included a 5 wide spread set that surely would have opened up the read option and run had Kaepernick not gotten hurt. Can't wait to see more of that in 2009.
And speaking of Kaepernick, we saw a QB who played through half a quarter, a half time, and a second half on a bad wheel and still manage to set a bowl record for passing yards. But what's more important is what maybe not everyone could see. Early in the 3rd quarter, down by 14, coach Ault called Kaepernick over to the sidelines, patted him on the head and back for playing hard, and then called on Graziano to come in. Kaepernick's response wasn't pretty as he walked off and threw his helmet into the bench. And although we don't condone throwing one's helmet, the message he sent to his teammates and coach was simple: "Winning this game is more important to me than anything, including my health, and I hate not being able to do something about it".
Think about it. Kaep had his WAC POY award. He had his junior and senior season to try and win another bowl game. No one would have blamed him if he sat out the second half with a sprained ankle. To come back and play like that, and score 3 TD's in that second half on that bad ankle, could be a much bigger event than the average fan could ever imagine. How will any player on the team be able to give anything less than 100% next year and look themselves in the mirror? Unfortunately we don't believe that was the case all the time in 2008. But heading into 2009 the expectations that have always been set by the coaching staff have now been set by the teams star player.
With guys like Lippincott, the team's captain and humanitarian award winner, Kaepernick, Taua, Durham, and Basped (players we believe played hard and through injuries all season) now becoming the veterans of the team, and with coaches like Chris Ault and Nigel Burton getting another off season to adjust and tweak their units, we think the leadership is in place to get the program over the hump and to that next step that it takes to get to to be the WAC champs.
Look out Donkeys. The Wolf Pack will be on the hunt in the fall of 2009.
Until then work hard in the weight room, study film, and be smart and safe while enjoying your college experience. The 2009 season started Dec 31st, 2008.
See you all this spring!