The Bullet Points
- Out-gained on offense by almost 200 yards. Out-first-downed 24 to 16. Out-time-of-possessioned by twelve and a half minutes. Even held to a big fat oh-fer on all nine of their third downs. And yet, here the Pack sit at 3-1, successful in their conference opener and finally cleansed of the road win jinx. These maddening means have clouded -- not unlike a certain forest fire -- what most of us would agree are satisfactory ends. The low, line drive punts of Alex Boy have become a metaphor for the first month of the season: it ain't pretty, but it's worked so far.
- I've seen and heard a lot of people blaming the screwy practice schedule caused by smoke from the King fire for the team's *ahem* rusty performance on Saturday. And while my knowledge of how to conduct a full-speed FBS practice is (putting it gently) nonexistent, I will say I'm more inclined to believe this theory now than I would've been last year. Think back to the three weeks' worth of smoke the Rim fire dumped on the Truckee Meadows leading up to the season opener at UCLA. For an opponent like the Bruins, a full week of regular practices wouldn't have made much of a difference for the Pack, and certainly not with a first-time head coach. But for San Jose State -- a peer opponent much closer to their own level -- any mistake you make has the potential to be that much more costly by virtue of the game being closer. You don't ask "What if...?" after you get blown out by 60 points, but you do when you lose by 6.
- True, there were problems in the win over the Spartans which had appeared in previous games before the King fire was ever on the scene -- stalled drives, lackluster play-calling and inopportune penalties, to name some. But it's reasonable to suspect any attempts by the coaching staff to remedy these things were also disrupted in some way by the week's sudden schedule changes. Many of the criticisms leveled at Coach Polian so far have merit, but these were circumstances any coach would have difficulty gleaning drastic one-week improvements from.
- So if it's too early to start celebrating or to start panicking, then what is it NOT too early to do? For one, if you thought the Pack would be 3-1 in September like a lot of us did, you can give yourself some credit...just not too much (Nevada's on a tight budget as it is, and everyone has to do their part to help). If you had them at 2-2 or 1-3, hooray for hurdling the bar of lowered expectations! If you had them at 4-0, I like your optimism, but for your own safety, we're going to have to squeeze it out of you. A couple viewings of the 2012 New Mexico Bowl oughta do the trick. During the times I've replayed it, I don't even hear the sounds of a football game anymore. Instead, I hear a woman screaming, pigs being slaughtered, and the wolf of oblivion sitting at my door, lapping its tongue in anticipation of my inevitable demise. I'm seeing a therapist, but...it's hard.
- Speaking of things that force me to confront my own mortality, it's Boise State week! That means we'll all have a chance to bask in the reflected glory of the most perfect of God's creations on this Earth: the Boise State Football Fan*. Now, to be clear, I'm not talking about the BSU fans who know how to act at football games -- they're generally older, don't frequent Internet message boards and, in my experiences, are cooler than cucumbers in sunglasses. I'm talking about the Tough Guy fans, the ones who take it upon themselves to lecture you on "class" and "sportsmanship" while also taking every opportunity to remind you what a "horrible" city Reno is. They're the Ted Knight to our Rodney Dangerfield, and like election year campaign ads, they can turn what should be a fun span of three-ish hours watching football into a grating chore. If you see one this weekend, or one of our fans pulling that same shtick with one of theirs, call them on it and tell them "Don't be a jerk." My snark on here is spoken with tongue firmly in cheek, but when game day comes around, put it aside and be excellent to each other. That much of this column, at least, is sincere. And for the prediction on the actual game? Pack 21, Broncos 20.
*Taken verbatim from Bronco Country**.
**Not really. But it could be.
Pigeon Head Oktoberfest (Reno, NV) -- Of course I had to do a local beer for Homecoming! No way in red hell was I going to drink some weird potato beer from Idaho this week (That's a thing now, right? Maybe sweet potato beer for hipsters...?). Pigeon Head is one of Reno's newest breweries, opening earlier this summer in an old animal shelter on 5th Street next to the Wells Avenue overpass. They specialize in European-style lagers, and their six taps offer two rotating selections along with their four mainstay beers: three lagers of the red rye, black and India pale varieties, and a pilsner. While the styles deviate slightly from the usual gamut of craft brews, their ingredients are all pretty straightforward, and their Oktoberfest is no different. The same strain of Munich malt most commonly associated with the marzen style is present here, and it's not dressed up with any other exotic ingredients or flavors. The resulting beer is simple and satisfying with a pleasantly malty finish, and additional credit should go to whoever thought to sell giant pretzels from nearby Bavarian World at the bar. I give it four tipsy Wolfies out of five.
You're pining for brats during Boise State week? Where, may I ask, are your priorities?
All fan mail (burning or otherwise), should be sent to:
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Campus of THE University of Nevada
Reno, NV 89557