The Bullet Points
- The “flare,” in this case, is the team’s progression through roughly one third of the season, and just like Jennifer Anniston’s character in “Office Space,” they’re skating through with the bare minimum of flare. They can’t shoot (36.7% as of Saturday), and they definitely can’t win right now. Even what they do well — holding opponents to an average of 38.6% shooting, 58th best in the country as of this writing — is hallow comfort at this point. Their losing streak sits at seven games and counting, with Saturday’s wire-to-wire defeat at the hands of Cal State Fullerton the worst of the bunch by far. For context, two of the Titans’ seven setbacks to date include losses at South Carolina Upstate and Sacramento State. The latter came two nights before their game in Reno. If you’re a believer in the transitive property, Nevada basketball is worse than South Carolina Upstate right now. And if it weren’t for the current turmoil at San Jos State, they’d be the clear worst team in the Mountain West. I could regale you with lots of hyperbole and exaggeration for the rest of this column, but it wouldn’t be far off from the truth.
- And even with all of that ineptitude plain to see, I’m still uncomfortable calling for head coach David Carter to be fired. That’s not why I decided to take up weekly columns again; I’m an entertainer, not an agitator. That’s better left for others entrusted with less responsibility than me. If I were still blogging on my own time like the old Pistol Whipping the WAC days, I might consider it, but I doubt I’d go through with it. Commenting on a team’s performance or the overall atmosphere at a basketball game in general terms backed up with observations and statistics is one thing, but demanding an individual coach’s termination of employment is firmly out of my wheel house. My disappointment as one fan — ultimately trivial as it is — should be evident, and can be supplemented with the knowledge that whatever frustration I experience watching this team play is easily fiftyfold among Carter and his staff.
- Moving on to a subject with more optimism, the football team’s bowl game is nearly upon us. The Cajuns and Wolf Pack are nearly identical by many measurements, including their stats (too many to list here, really), their offensive styles (run-first, pass-second, capable of scoring lots of points) and their struggles defending the pass (both among the bottom twenty in the nation in yards allowed per game). Nevada has played the tougher schedule and has better wins to their name, while Louisiana boasts offensive speed and a bona fide home-bowl advantage. Randomly enough, both teams even have a James Butler on their roster: Nevada’s a running back and Louisiana’s a wide receiver.
- What gives me pause is the two teams’ ground games: they can both run, but the Cajuns have fielded a better run defense to date (146.7 yards allowed per game compared to the Pack’s 179.1, though Air Force’s triple option skews that a bit), anchored by some really stellar linemen in Christian Ringo and Justin Hamilton. Even without Hasaan Henderson and a couple of other offensive starters, I think Nevada can score enough to win. I envision this game coming down to the wire, with maximum levels of gnashed teeth and pulled hair. Nevada can win in the Superdome, but anyone who went to the Kraft Bowl can also vouch for how much of a difference a home-bowl advantage can make. My score prediction could just as easily flip the other way, so take heart when I say: Ragin’ Cajuns 35, Wolf Pack 32.
- Lost in the highly publicized hard times of the now-postseason-eliminated Fightin’ Kaepernicks’ has been an otherwise banner year for Wolf Pack players in the NFL. Joel Bitonio, James-Michael Johnson, Josh Mauga, Brandon Marshall, Duke Williams and Rishard Matthews have all started varying numbers of games, with Zach Sudfeld, Virgil Green, Kaelin Burnett, Isaiah Frey and Dontay Moch playing either sparingly or on special teams for their respective squads. I’m curious as to how this season compares to others as far as the number of Nevada players playing — and starting for — NFL teams. I’m willing to bet its one of the best, and challenge my more statistically inclined readers to find out and let us know in time for next week’s column. You’ll have my gratitude. And a cookie.
Spoetzl Shiner Holiday Cheer Dunkelweizen (Shiner, TX) — I swear I had plans to do a Louisiana beer this week! It turns out that not only is Louisiana not the most beer-friendly of places (just 0.3 breweries per capita, dead last of the 50 states), but I couldn’t find anything of theirs in Reno, anyway. So I figured one from neighboring Texas would suffice…even if Shiner is seven hours away from New Orleans by car. Dunkelweizen means “dark wheat,” and is part of the same family of beers that includes hefeweizen (“yeast wheat”) and witbier (“white beer”). Shiner’s take on the style pours a clear reddish-brown out of its bottle and has a small head that quickly dissipates. Peaches and caramelized malt are the main smells and, along with roasted pecans, are the main taste attraction as well. Mild hops, sweet barley and bread round out the other flavors. The whole experience was sweet without going too far, but a lot of its appeal depends on whether you enjoy peaches and pecans together. If you do like them, or your holiday feast happens to include a peach cobbler or pecan pie for dessert, this beer pairs well with either dish and is likely right up your alley. If not, ask a friend to try a sip anyway, but odds are you probably won’t take to it. Since I’m a sucker for most anything with pecans, it worked for me. I give it three and a half tipsy Wolfies out of five.
A jambalaya recipe for Saturday's game, complete with Andouille sausage.
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