A bit of conversation I overheard on my way out of Mackay Stadium on Friday night:
"I can't believe we held a Pac-12 team to 13 points."
Yeah, I thought. I'm scared, too.
The Bullet Points
- And that just about describes this very foreign feeling Nevada's defense has suddenly prompted from us: hope. I wasn't sure what it was, because I had to look up the opposite word for "despair," i.e. what Nevada's defense usually generates. Even in the waning minutes of Friday night's win, I couldn't shake the feeling that something horrible was waiting just out of view; that the dam would finally burst, and Washington State would somehow steal a win, and the familiar pessimism of "letting another one slip away" would return. But it never came. And now, Pack fans find themselves grappling with the question of just how good Scott Boone's defense is -- and not from the position of defeat they're used to examining it from.
- In my first column, I said it would be a few weeks before we could get a feel for how good this Nevada team truly is, and I still believe that. From variety in offensive play-calling to penalties to general execution at critical junctures (hopefully involving fake punts with better timing and results next time), there are several areas with significant growth potential. With that said...
- The team is in a good position overall -- not great and certainly not bad, but good. When you're able to make a decent list of things you can get better at while sitting at 2-0, you've still done well for yourself. True, they were probably lucky to catch Washington State mired in what appears to be a big rough patch, and Arizona will be a hugely ramped up challenge from there. But some of the hands you're dealt are more favorable than others, and you still need to display skill in how you play that hand against the others at the table.
- Speaking of which, the team finally got some favorable breaks with this year's schedule a year after opening the season at UCLA and flying three time zones away to get their lunch money swiped at Florida State. When I talk about "setting a team up to succeed," this 2-0 start is what can happen when you do that. The 2010 schedule did it perfectly, and this year's slate has some of that same good fortune. Anyone who still believes Nevada "shouldn't be afraid of a challenge" can prove it by calling out the next MMA fighter they meet. On his turf. With no prior training. After all, you can't beat the best if you don't play the best, right?
- Bill Parcells once said "You are what your record says you are," and triteness aside, that still rings true. If you had told me before the season that Nevada would win one of its Pac-12 dates and get no worse than a split in non-conference play, I would've been pleased. Also, I would've grabbed the Grays Sports Almanac you clearly brought with you from the future.
- Shifting to the NFL, Colin Kaepernick was fortunate in that all he really had to do in the 49ers' season opener at Jerryworld was play better than Tony Romo. He did (16 of 23 for 201 yards, two TDs and no picks), and even put up a QB rating of 156.6 in the first half -- the highest one-half rating of his pro career to date and the second-best total rating (125.5) in the league that week. But obvious Cowboy jokes notwithstanding, the Niners' defense looked pretty ordinary for most of the game, and they'll need Kap to keep on chiving on (is that what you kids call it now?) until Aldon Smith and NaVorro Bowman both return.
- Finally, for us Nevada fans, getting lost in the new American pastime of piling on Tony Romo (shame on you, previous paragraph!) is the quiet ascendance of Brandon Marshall and James-Michael Johnson with their respective teams. Marshall's ten tackles were a game-high in the Broncos' win over Indianapolis, and Johnson is in line for lots of playing time of his own in Kansas City. Joel Bitonio, Duke Williams, and even Josh Mauga all made the most of their time on the field in week one as well. The number of players Coach Polian recruits and nurtures to the NFL in the coming years will be another measure of his success of his time here.
Great Basin Cerveza Chilebeso (Reno) -- I couldn't find any beers from Arizona around town in time for this week's deadline, so instead we can play Six Degrees of Carbonation: Nevada plays Arizona this week (1); the University of Arizona is located in Tucson (2), which is about an hour away from the U.S.-Mexico border (3), where jalapenos are a common ingredient in Mexican food (4), and Cerveza Chilebeso is a local pilsner brewed with jalapenos (5). I think pilsners are often underrated, and they tend to get a bad rap from being lumped in with cheap domestic beers. The jalapeno flavor in this brew gives it a nice bite that doesn't overpower, and as you might guess, it compliments Mexican food well. It's not for everyone, but try a sip the next time you're in town. I give it three and a half tipsy Wolfies out of five.
The BratsEditor's note: Where are the Brats??? What good is a semi-meaningless alliterating title, that we forced on you, if you don't give us the Brats Andrew!?
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