Wednesday, September 29, 2010

PWtW Week 5 Preview

"The general fact is that the most effective way of utilizing human energy is through an organized rivalry, which by specialization and social control is, at the same time, organized cooperation."
~Charles Horton Cooley

Unless you've experienced a few of the games firsthand, it's not easy to describe what the Battle for Nevada -- or any other college football rivalry -- is like. But considering that Professor Cooley taught at the University of Michigan, I'll gladly defer to his expertise on this subject.

So holster your water bottles (or "projectiles" if you're a Pack fan), partake in some senseless destruction (or "celebrate" if you're a Rebel fan) and place your bets to cover that spread ("easy money" to everyone) -- this is Rivalry Week.

NSU Rebels

If rivalries are a form of organized cooperation, then someone needs to pass the message on to the Rebels at some point. "Cooperation" means "an act or instance of working or acting together for a common purpose or benefit," not "sucking donkey balls all the time and pretending you don't care about it at the expense of your peer program to the north." This is why the game is mandated by the state to be played every year: it's good for both programs and universities. Yet Rebel fans are always quick to (correctly) point out that Pack fans take the rivalry more seriously. That's still not how it works, folks! It takes two competitive programs to allow a rivalry to fully benefit everyone involved, and making excuses doesn't help your favorite team in any way. If a rising tide raises all boats, you can't just cover up your own suckiness by claiming you're actually a submarine.

But to be fair, if your favorite team was as bad as the Rebels, how much patience would you have in waiting for them to get better? Statistically, there is no comparison this year: the Pack excels on offense (4th in total scoring, 3rd in total offensive yards and tied for 2nd in total first downs) while the Rebels don't (84th, 94th and tied for 97th in those respective categories). And if you're a believer in history, Kaep can likely expect another performance similar to his previous two against NSU, barring the sudden appearance of a robot sent from the future to destroy him.

However, the Rebel defense does offer up a couple of surprises when pouring over the usual kinds of stats. True, their scoring defense still hasn't been good (92nd, compared to Nevada's 38th), but their ability to defend the pass and total defense (57th an 66th, respectively) are uncharacteristically adequate (and ranked ahead of Nevada, at least). This is in spite of playing two nationally ranked opponents in their first four games, so a little credit might be in order for them.

But just like beating New Mexico last week, these rankings are ultimately false hope for what's still a sub-par unit overall. In their first four outings, the Rebels have surrendered totals of 263 rushing yards and 178 passing yards in the first quarter, and considering Nevada's penchant for fast starts and the fact that they still have yet to trail at all in any game this year, this bodes very ominously for NSU. Simply put, barring a few miraculous stops or a team-wide bout of food poisoning that forces Nevada to play its second string, this game should be over before it really begins at all.

Best-Case Scenario

The home team falls behind early, and because of this the crowd can't be brought to bear and the Rebels are helpless to stop the Pistol offense the rest of the night. Everyone gets involved in a resounding win, from the running backs to the tight ends to the defensive backs, linebackers and everyone in between. Turnovers are forced, Rebel scoring drives are halted quickly and the offense has no trouble moving the ball from wherever it takes over on the field. The most serious question Pack fans ask afterward is whether Kaep should've stayed in the game long enough to pad his stats for a Heisman campaign.

Worst-Case Scenario

Bobby Hauck turns out to be the second coming of Urban Meyer, and whips out a slew of surprises he's been keeping under wraps for his first Battle for Nevada rodeo. Chuck Norris takes over at defensive end, Wolverine is put in at linebacker and Chewbacca tries his hand at nose tackle. Just for good measure, that Terminator from before shows up, too. The no-longer-mythical gang succeeds in doing what nobody else has done: knock Kaep on his ass and out of the game. They proceed to run roughshod over the now-helpless visiting Wolf Pack and take back the Fremont Cannon, after which a meteorite will strike the Earth and the End Times will officially commence.

But in all seriousness, knowing what transpired over the summer and the role that UNLV played in helping to bring Nevada into the Mountain West, keep it all in mind if you're attending Saturday's game. Be proud of how the Pack has played so far -- and will likely continue to play -- but remember what their future holds and some of the people that we as fans should thank for it. If and when (OK, "when") they win on Saturday, you can be a little bit of an asshole. Just don't overdo it.

Finally, I've neglected to mention that I've been using a fantastic website called for the statistics I've cited in my entries. It's a truly valuable resource, and one I gladly recommend to anyone with the time to peruse its weekly updates.

Red Rage?

Something to think about.....

Colin Kaepernick has been the primary quarterback in 39 Nevada football games.  15 of those have come against teams who's primary colors are red.  Of those 15 games, 9 times he has accounted for 4 or more TD's.

As a whole the Nevada offense has averaged 41 points per game and has only failed to score less than 5 TD's twice: the New Mexico and SMU bowl fiascoes.

What does it all mean?  It means that we would appreciate it if coach Ault would RUTS the webels now that we need "style points" and all that good stuff as a top 25 team.  How about Kaep to Vai.  Kaep to Virg.  Kaep to Wellington.  And Kaep to the endzone himself 3 times and send these seniors out with a big win and a blue cannon.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A New Leader This Saturday?

(Former Nevada Wolf Pack QB David Neill has held the title as the All Time Offensive Leader at Nevada since the 2001 Season)

(Current Nevada Wolf Pack QB Colin Kaepernick needs just 67 yards to become the new All Time Offensive Leader at Nevada)

It would probably be hard for most people to imagine back in the late 90's and early 2000's that David Neill's Total Offense record would be broken by a QB with over 3,000 less passing yards.  Maybe hard isn't the word.  Maybe impossible would better fit that statement.

Yet here we find ourselves almost 10 years later with one of the top rushing offenses in the country, in fact THE top last year, and with current starting QB Colin Kaepernick needing just 67 yards of offense to pass Neill's record.  (Something he will likely do in the first half, if not the first quarter of play this Saturday at Edwards Stadium in Provo Utah.)

So do yourself a favor tomorrow.  Watch the game and enjoy it.  Appreciate the past and remember back to those days of the Big West and players like David and Chance and the boys you all loved to watch so much.  And then appreciate where the team is now, playing in the WAC with kids like Colin, Vai, and Dontay.  And then spoil yourself a little and realize that the MWC and a whole new crop of players will be coming through in the years to come

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

PWtW Week 4 Preview

I've tried to start off my first three previews with profound words or pithy observations to set the tone for the rest of the blog entry. But I have to admit that this week...I got nothin'. Nothing except a burning question that's stayed with me ever since the Wolf Pack basketball team lost a close game to BYU in Las Vegas last year: who in the blue hell would ever willingly call themselves "Jimmer"? That defies explanation for so many reasons to me. If his parents actually named him that, it would raise a whole different set of questions and he would have my pity. But his real name is actually James! He calls himself "Jimmer" BY CHOICE!!! W-T-F?! Let's get this preview over with before my headache gets worse.

BYU Cougars

If someone had told me before the season started that Nevada would go into its first road game of 2010 as a slight favorite, I would've told that person to put down their bong and/or hand it to me for a hit of whatever it was they were clearly smoking. But I also would've said the same thing if that person had told me Nevada would beat Cal by three touchdowns while being out-gained on offense. Needless to say, it's been a very odd but wonderful week in Packland, and without the aid of recreational drug use, no less (at least, for this blogger).

I always try to identify prominent or recurring themes leading up to each week's game, and the theme this week is definitely "role reversals." Normally it's Nevada who begins each year stumbling out of the gate and unsure of themselves. Normally it's BYU who has the dynamic, high-flying offense. Normally it's Nevada who finds themselves an underdog at home to a visiting opponent on a roll. Normally it's BYU who gets Top 25 attention of some sort. You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension...

The losses of quarterback Max Hall, running back Harvey Unga, tight end Dennis Pitta and defensive lineman Jan Jorgensen, among others from last year, created a humongous void of leadership the Cougars haven't been able to easily replace this year. And sure enough, the Cougars' stats through their first three games paint the picture of a team accustomed to success suddenly gripped with a whole host of problems all at once.

Their quarterbacks can't pass (101st in passing offense), their running backs can't run (67th in rushing offense) and their defense can't get into backfields and create pressure (tied for 69th in sacks per game and tied for 98th in total tackles for loss) or defend much of anything in front of them (98th in total defense). Their offense has struggled to score (15.7 points per game), get first downs (18.3 per game, tied for 79th), convert third downs (32.6%, one spot below New Mexico) and even hold on to the ball (27:41 of average possession time and a turnover margin of -3). Their defense allows opponents to convert 44.7% of their third downs (95th, only two spots ahead of UNLV) and yields 20.3 first downs per game (tied for 84th) and 28.7 points per game (tied for 86th with San Jose State). Simply put, this is not a BYU team its fans (or many other fans) are used to seeing.

So one would think with all of this data to back up the assertion that BYU just isn't very good that I'd be fully confident in Nevada's chances of winning Saturday. Not quite.

For all of the Cougars' present hardships, they still have legitimate reasons to be confident which are rooted in their prior successes. LaVell Edwards Stadium is a tough place to play and an even tougher place for visitors to win in, particularly since Bronco Mendenhall took over in 2005 (26-5 in Provo as of this week). And in spite of the obvious handicap of being named "Bronco" (it is, in fact, his actual name, but I'll let it slide for the simple reason that it isn't "Jimmer"), he has never lost three straight games as a head coach. Lastly, even if Mendenhall himself would probably be reluctant to admit it, his offense stands a much better chance of getting into a consistent rhythm with only one quarterback taking snaps, particularly with one as highly touted as Jake Heaps (pictured above). Playing a true freshman is always fraught with problems, but Nevada fans of all people should know just what can happen when one quarterback takes over for another following an injury...

Best-Case Scenario

BYU's identity crisis persists and Nevada is able to continue on its hot streak. Mounting injuries on both sides of the ball leave the Cougars unable to either contain the Pistol or stage any kind of comeback. The hostile crowd is silenced early on, and Nevada is able to comfortably put together long scoring drives and some timely defensive stands as a result. Heaps can't get into a dependable rhythm, but Kaep personifies it. Nevada's offensive line, running backs and senior-laden roster rule the day.

Worst-Case Scenario

BYU plays with reckless abandon and desperation that are too much for the Pack to overcome. Nevada gets rattled in its first road game and makes enough mistakes -- either forced or unforced -- to keep the Cougars in the game for all four quarters. Scoring drives are halted prematurely, and the defense is helpless to counter Heaps' sudden new confidence. BYU plays with the urgency many hope they do, and Nevada is left to wonder if the Cal win was just a fluke and if they have any staying power.

And because I would be remiss if I didn't mention it in this post: Attention Nevada players! If doing it for your coaches, your senior teammates or your fans isn't enough motivation, at least get out there and win one for the Kretschmer!

Saturday, September 18, 2010


"And all I gotta say to you
Wannabe, gonnabe, cock-suckin', pussy-eatin' prankstas

'Cause when the fire dies down what the fuck you gonna do

Damn it feels good to be a gangsta"

~Geto Boys, "Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta"

A poignant and stirring message to our friends in the community who didn't think Coach Ault could ever win "the big one" (and my second reference to "Office Space" in less than a week). But ignoring my obvious lack of street cred, it does beg a couple of good questions: where exactly does this win rank in Wolf Pack history? And what does it mean for the program and community?

The answer to the first question is that we don't really know, and probably won't for at least a few weeks. I respectfully disagreed with fellow fans who insisted it was the biggest win in program history, and my reasoning for it is simple: it's too soon to tell. Just like with U.S. Presidencies or episodes of "The Simpsons," we have to let a certain amount of time pass in order to place a game like this in its proper context. Additionally, in the here and now, we still have no idea how Cal will play the rest of the year. If they pull a Colorado State and completely tank the next nine games, would anyone be able to look back on it so fondly? We've also shared a conference with Fresno State long enough to know that how you finish the season matters a lot more than how you start.

On that note, given the circumstances of the win, one could argue that we're not totally sure how good Nevada is right now, either. The Cal game was the beneficiary of a perfect storm of conditions that made it ideal for the Pack to finally shed its big-game bad juju: sold-out home crowd, national TV, a short week for the opponent to prepare, two previous home games to work out all of the kinks and an offense laden with seniors who were mad as hell and weren't going to take it anymore. In particular, three straight home games to open the season is a luxury even many BCS-conference teams don't often enjoy. What are they going to do when they eventually have to go back out on the road to open the season?

The second question, however, is much easier to answer: Friday night's win was nonetheless ENORMOUS for Nevada football and the Truckee Meadows in general. From a public opinion standpoint, the signature win that armchair fans, skeptics and general malcontents were waiting and pining for is finally reality. No "moral victory" or close call has one tenth the power of persuasion that a 21-point win over a Pac-10 opponent on national TV has.

And from an actual wins-and-losses standpoint it's obviously enormous, too. It wasn't that long ago that Nevada was 0-3 and starting to get acquainted with's Bottom 10. Now that record is reversed, both on paper and in the hearts and minds of Nevada fans. For a team that until Friday had only 2 wins against BCS-conference opponents in the last decade, the possibilities seem endless after a win like Friday's.

Recruiting-wise, it's a tremendous coup. Now, Nevada will be able to not only get into the living rooms of many recruits who might not have given them a second thought otherwise, but even go head-to-head with much bigger programs and use wins like Friday's as leverage to steal a couple from them each year. Instead of having one or two Brandon Wimberleys or L.J. Washingtons slip through the cracks to Nevada every year, the win could be used to pull in three or even four a year. Bit by bit it could add up until Nevada has built up a bona fide mid-major powerhouse program setting out on the same trail Boise State blazed years ago.

But that's the macroscopic (and potential) impact of this win. Ultimately, Friday's win is a beginning -- a fantastic and impressive beginning, yes, but a beginning all the same. Nevada has to prove it has staying power if it wants to convert the rest of its naysayers into true believers. And that can happen next week with the trip to Provo to face the Fighting Brighams.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

PWtW Week 3 Preview

If human history has taught us anything, it's that when one group of people encounters another group of people very different from them in some way, they probably won't like what they see and will almost inevitably come to blows with each other. This is especially true when the two groups in question are from vastly different ways of life and hail from far-flung corners of the Earth.

When this occurs between two football teams, the results aren't all that different -- for this week, just swap out full-scale wars and the deaths of countless innocents with standard-issue hippie and prostitute jokes. With that in mind, allow me to serve as your Richard Attenborough guide on the "Planet Earth" documentary that is...the California preview (British accent not necessary, but preferred for a touch of class).

California Golden Bears

In spite of being only four hours apart as a typical drive on Interstate 80 goes, Cal and Nevada might as well be on different continents half a world away from each other. As I pointed out when the series was first announced, these two programs have played each other once in the last 60+ years. That's like two families moving into a new neighborhood at the same time and down the street from each other not bothering to exchange housewarming gifts until after all of their kids grow up and move out.

As a brief aside, Cal's reinvigorated defense is coached by former NFL coordinator Clancy Pendergast. The man's a fine coach by all accounts, but has without a doubt the most unfortunate name of any opposing coach we've ever seen here (I'll reveal the worst player name I've ever heard next week). A football coach named "Clancy" has all the initial intimidation of a hurricane named "Andrew." The only things missing are a Roman numeral after the last name, an "Esquire" title and membership at an east coast yachting club.

Cal boasts the nation's best statistical defense and Nevada the best statistical offense, but making those claims at this time is like throwing a military parade after conquering Guam. Where this game will be decided can be better guessed by looking at where both teams have struggled, even if that's fairly relative at this point as well.

Considering how little trouble they've had scoring, the Bears have had some difficulty converting third downs (12 of 26 for 46.2%). QB Kevin Riley has been efficient, but is also responsible for failing to convert many of those opportunities. Even so, "relative" is still the word and 46% only looks truly inadequate when compared to Nevada's much more robust 67.9% (19 of 28). Neither team has failed to score once they've moved inside the 20, either. So not much in the way of "struggling" there.

The biggest reason why Cal's offense has been so successful to date is less because of the play-making ability of some of their players (although that shouldn't be scoffed at, either) and more because they've had so many short fields to work with. Their three longest scoring drives against Colorado were 82, 72 and 64 yards (two of which were in the second half when the game had long been decided), and were accompanied by 31, 19 and 7 yard drives thanks in no small part to 5 turnovers and 9 penalties from the Buffaloes. Cal led Colorado 31-0 at halftime on just 151 yards of offense. For comparison's sake, Oklahoma needed 412 yards of offense to lead Florida State 34-7 after two quarters (thanks to The Ralphie Report for those observations). In short, it certainly isn't a bad offense, but it has often been a very thankful beneficiary of the Bears' play on defense and special teams.

When one college football site called Nevada "the most interesting team in America" before the season started, we Pack fans all nodded in agreement knowing exactly why they earned that distinction: the team has had offenses whose praises are worth singing from rooftops coupled with defenses that will compel you to leap off of said rooftops. Andy Buh's defense, by contrast, seems to actually fit the personnel he inherited and -- for now, against admittedly weak competition -- has mostly limited the big plays that constantly killed Nevada's chances of winning big games in the past. Tackling was poor in Week 1, but seemed to improve the following week, and the turnover margin is already markedly better than it was after 2009's first two games.

All of these observations lead us to the three most important questions heading into Friday night:
  1. Who will win the field position battles?
  2. Is Cal's offense consistent enough to do its share of the work load?
  3. Has Nevada's defense finally improved enough to be a truly game-changing unit?
Best-Case Scenario

Everything finally comes together on the big stage. Nevada's offense succeeds more often than not in finding the end zone and its defense makes enough stops to put everyone at ease. Kick and punt returns put the offense in great position to work its magic. Turnovers are nonexistent, if not greatly minimized. Cal is not allowed to get back into the game on a count of stupid penalties being limited. The final score doesn't quite reach "shoot-out" proportions, but reflects a hard-fought and close contest nonetheless.

Worst-Case Scenario

Deja-freaking-vu all over again. The offense makes infuriating mistakes at the worst possible times, giving Cal's offense the short fields it craves. That same offense also burns Coach Buh's defense up, down, sideways and inside-out for numerous big plays. Cal wins the field position battles, and ultimately wins the day as a result. When Cal does screw up, they're bailed out with penalties. Cal covers the spread comfortably, Nevada gets yet another "moral victory" and everyone wonders if they'll ever be able to win the big one.

No profound conclusions or other parting words here. Just come out early, raise hell and make history.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Few Players Can Climb Some Lists on Friday

(Tell me what do you see?  James Madison's stats from the VaTech game..No but good guess.  It's the Wolf Pack breaking records of course!)

We thought maybe we should follow up a little since Pack Backer has been so kind to do all the heavy lifting these days.  Besides, who doesn't want more Wolf Pack info?  Sickos and Bronco fans (as if there is a difference), that's who.

For you fans out there who don't pay attention to the numbers like you should, don't worry.  We are doing it for you.

In regards to the team:

Nevada recently went 2-0 for the first time since the 95 season.  (Really?  Come on guys!)  Going 3-0 would be the first time since the 1991 season when Nevada started out 12-0 with a Big Sky Championship in their final season before moving to the Big West.

In regards to the players:

Colin Kaepernick:

With 1 yard rushing, Colin will move out of a tie for 12th place with former Texas QB Vince Young and into sole possession of 12th place on the NCAA career rushing yards by a QB list.

Colin has scored two rushing TD's in each of the last two games.  A repeat of that performance would move him from 9th place into a tie for 7th place with former Missouri QB Brad Smith with 45 rushing TD's.  He would leap frog former Indiana QB Antwaan Randle El (44).  He would also move out of a tie with former UTEP RB John Harvey and into sole possession of 5th place on the career WAC rushing TD's list.  And he would also move from 19th (266) on the WAC all time points scored list to 18th, passing former LTU kicker Josh Scobee (270).

With 240 yards passing, Colin (7,623) would move from 22nd place on the all time WAC passing yards list all the way up to 17th.  He would pass the following in doing so:  Marc Wilson BYU (7,636), Tom Corontzos UW (7,712), Billy Blanton SDSU (7,715), Steve Young BYU (7,737) and Jeff Rowe Nevada (7,862).  Passing Jeff would put Colin from 6th to 5th on the all time Nevada mark.

With 7 completed passes, Colin (554) will move from 7th place to 6th place on the career completions list, passing Mike Maxwell in the process.

In his last two games, Colin (65) has also thrown for 2 TD's in each.  A repeat of that performance would move him from 15th place on the all time TD passes by a WAC QB into a tie for tenth place with Stoney Case (UNM) and Billy Blanton (SDSU).  He would pass Luke McCown (LTU), John Walsh (BYU), and Robbie Bosco (BYU).

It will be tough to do against a stingy Cal Bears defense, but with 396 yards of total offense, Kaep would become Nevada's all time offensive yardage leader in front of a big home crowd.  Here's to crossing our fingers and hoping for that one!

Vai Taua:

For any stat that is rushing yardage related, simply add 20 yards to Colin's stats to know what Vai's stats are entering this game.  Taua is currently 5th all time at Nevada with 3,147 yards rushing.  Colin is 6th with 3,127.

Vai has scored 3 TD's this year.  A realistic number for him, like we used for Kaep, would be two TD's against the Bears.  If he were to do that (36), he would move into sole possession of 6th place on the Nevada touchdowns list passing Trevor Insley, Bryan Reeves, and Chance Kretschmer.  He would also move into 6th on the points scored list (218) leaping the same 3 players.

Vai needs to tote the rock 11 times in the game to move from 10th place (449) to 9th place all time on on the school's rushing attempts list.  He would pass former Pack star Earnie O'Leary (459) by doing so.

With a total of 72 yards rushing, Vai (3,147) will move from his current position as the number 18 all time rusher in WAC history to the number 17 rusher, passing former UU RB Eddie Johnson (3,218).

Dontay Moch:

If Dontay (42) is able to record 1 tackle for loss, it will move him out of a tie for 3rd place with former Pack defensman Jorge Cardova and into sole possession of 2nd place ahead of former Pack star and Hard Knocks star Kevin Basped (42.5) on the Pack's all time TFL list.

With 1.5 sacks of Bears QB Kevin Riley, Moch (22.5) would claim 2nd place on the all time sacks list as well, again leaping Kevin Basped (23.5).

And an added little nugget just because we thought you would love it:

Although it's only his 3rd game of his sophomore season, Wolf Pack running back and kick returner Mike Ball is already over halfway to becoming the all time kick return and kick return yardage leader.  Mike has returned 33 kicks (Paul Williams is the record holder with 55) for 843 yards (Williams, 1,339).  He is currently 3rd on the all time list at an average of 25.5 YPR.

Nevada's Mr. 3,000 (And Other Musings)

Touchdowns racked up. Records -- both Wolf Pack and NCAA -- rewritten. Countless defenders trampled over, bamboozled and generally frustrated. These are the present legacies of one Colin Kaepernick, which were further augmented on Saturday night by his admission into the 3,000-Yard Passing and 3,000-Yard Rushing Club. At the collegiate level, at least, he now stands in very exclusive company: Vince Young at Texas, Pat White at West Virginia, Brad Smith at Missouri and Antwaan Randle El at Indiana, among four others. He's also tantalizingly close to a couple of other elite NCAA marks.

And yet, for all of those records, he still has plenty of unfinished business here at Nevada. As much as Renoites love him, he still hasn't won a bowl game or beaten a BCS-conference team. Football is a team sport, and knowing the humility, class and grace Kaepernick has displayed in his time here, he'd be one of the first to tell you that individual records don't mean much in team sports unless you win some big games.

But what we also know is that even if his career were to end tomorrow, he would still go down in history as without a doubt one of the greatest players to ever sport the silver and blue, and arguably the best since the program's move to the WAC. The team has greatly benefited from the stability and leadership he has brought them over the last three years, and it's easy to take that continuity for granted when many other teams have undergone tremendous upheaval and change over the same time period. There are five home games left in 2010 -- five more chances to see this young man in action before he leaves Reno for much bigger things.

And with that not-at-all sappy segue, what can you say about an experience like Saturday's? The offense having its way for the entire night. The defense putting a steel curtain in front of the end zones. Special teams playing (dare we say it?) special. Perfect weather. Another fun (if totally under-reported) crowd. Even a great halftime salute to America's armed forces for continuity's sake. Damn it feels good to be a Pack fan!

But even in the wake of a win as satisfying as that one, it's our duty here at Pee-Dub-Tee-Dub to frame things in an impartial light, even if that light totally harshes our buzz. The fact is that Colorado State is not a good team right now. Not good at all, in fact. The team this blogger honestly thought could give Nevada a real scare under better circumstances was nowhere to be found on Saturday. Instead, what I saw was a team that would struggle to finish higher than 7th in the WAC, but even San Jose State and New Mexico State have at least found the end zone this far into the year. For the sake of building more momentum and exorcising whatever demons remained from the Maulin' in Fort Collins, it was a great win. But it was also against sub-par competition, and time spent celebrating it -- particularly with what lies ahead in the next two weeks -- is time wasted.

Speaking of poor competition, that seems to be one of the themes heading into Friday night's clash. In spite of being able to play Six Degrees of Separation between their first opponents, Cal and Nevada still don't really know where they stand in Week 3. They opened their seasons at home against western FCS teams, followed by other home games against Rocky Mountain Pillow Fight -- er, "Showdown" -- participants Colorado and CSU. This week's tilt is the biggest challenge of the year thus far for both teams, and will be a true bellwether game in every sense of the term.

In my next entry, I'll take a closer look at those Bears and maybe try to figure out why anyone would saddle their child with a name like "Clancy Pendergast."

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

PWtW Week 2 Preview

"A man that studieth revenge keeps his own wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well."
~Sir Francis Bacon

For his work in pioneering what we now call the scientific method and his other contributions to philosophy, politics and literature, Bacon is rightly viewed as one of the Western world's brightest minds. You'd also have a hard time picking a better man's name to be associated with the greatest and tastiest of all meats.

Bacon, however, was not a follower of college football. Forgiving this enormous character flaw of his, let's try to check out this week's opponent without totally fouling up his good name.

Colorado State Rams

How appropriate it is that the Pack squares off against the Rams with revenge on their minds and then to have Sir Bacon enlighten us on how revenge keeps our wounds green. As in "green and gold." Gag.

It is absolutely true that revenge is often hollow and not worth the time and energy required to exact it. But when your favorite team completely embarrasses themselves beyond explanation or reproach against what turned out to be a horrendously underwhelming opponent, it's not easy to simply shrug off the whole experience with a casual "Oh fiddlesticks! That shouldn't have happened. C'est la vie."

Coach Ault's players are normally very careful when they discuss opposing teams with the media. But seeing Kaep's honesty on how he and his teammates are approaching this game in the above link is very insightful as to how hard they took the loss in Fort Collins last year. Taking his words at face value, no one in the Wolf Pack locker room will be looking ahead to Cal next week, and that's where revenge can (hopefully) serve a practical purpose.

The visitors being led by true freshman QB Pete Thomas (above) are a little younger but not much different than the squad the Pack previously lost to. The offense will get them into a few more jams than it will get them out of, and the defense is surprisingly stout in spite of the offense's suckitude. They put up 3 points and 245 yards of offense against a Colorado team that may or may not be decent at last, and those teams' combined yardages were about equal to Nevada's total offense by itself last week (552 to 553, respectively).

True, Nevada surrendered its share of big plays and touchdown drives to an FCS team, but the defensive game plan was fairly conservative on the whole (As evidenced by Dontay Moch's lack of involvement on even the most pedestrian blitzes the defense ran). Also true is the Rams' inability to produce big plays of their own or even cross the goal line, but that could be attributed to a true freshman's first collegiate start. It's safe to assume that both teams will be putting forth better all-around efforts than they did last week.

Best-Case Scenario

Nevada rips CSU a new orifice and fills it with a whole year's worth of pent up rage. The offense continues to have its way with most every defense it encounters, scoring lots of points and spreading the ball around in a truly balanced attack. The defense significantly improves its tackling and does exactly what it should against an offense that's still unsure of itself. Kick and punt returns put the Pack in great field position more often than not. Penalties all around are limited.

Worst-Case Scenario

CSU "physically handles" the Pack once again all the way to another frustrating loss. Thomas matures at a phenomenal rate and lights up a thin secondary already reeling from Corbin Louks's knee injury. Kaep and Co. fail to hold on to the ball long enough to score often enough to remain in the game. The "conservative game plans" against EWU turn out to be actual mediocrity and inability. In other words, a play-for-play, mistake-for-mistake repeat of last year's effort.

Ultimately, the question at the heart of this game is whether the Rams can improve enough from Week 1 to Week 2 to overcome Nevada's revenge-minded players and home field advantage. And the short answer is "Probably not." Later in the year this CSU team might be fully capable of handing the Pack a bona fide upset loss. But the handicaps of a freshman QB in his first true road game this early in the season with the stigma of ten straight losses accompanying most of his teammates will likely be too much to overcome.

You know the old adage "Revenge is a dish best served cold"? It turns out our friend Sir Bacon died after he allegedly contracted pneumonia while studying how freezing meat could help to preserve it. And to that, I respectfully say "Suck it, Francis."