The Wolf of Virginia Street, Week 5

For your reading consideration - The Wolf of Virginia Street, Week 5

These are the columns I hate writing the most. Here goes…

The Bullet Points

  • Folks, I’ll put this one on me. I’m the one who called UNLV all manner of childish names in my last column, and evidently, it angered the football gods in ways far beyond my feeble ability to comprehend. Who knew they wouldn’t be able to differentiate “tongue-in-cheek sass” from “raging, primal spite?” I even had some of the same anxieties and bad feelings as what I experienced leading up to the 2013 game, too, but being the handsome fool I am — key word “handsome” — I pushed them deep down inside and tried to compensate with tomfoolery. Lesson learned. I will not, however, apologize for my statements on Las Vegas beer. Tenaya Creek still (mostly) sucks, and the beer gods are much more forgiving, anyway.

  • Whichever poster on the message board first observed that Nevada athletics “never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity” absolutely nailed this one. And it’s gonna stay fresh and raw for a long time after Saturday. Not even the most pessimistic predictions of how Nevada would fare this season included what we just witnessed. The Wolf Pack lost in true knife-twisting fashion, the Fremont Cannon is now red, and we’ve all been left to wonder just what went wrong, and where they will go from here. After trolling Nevada in the press leading up to the game, Tony Sanchez brought a better prepared and better coached UNLV team to Mackay Stadium and walked out with the Cannon and (presumably) Brian Polian’s lunch money, too. The Rebels never trailed in a game Nevada had plenty of chances to take control of, in spite of their own self-inflicted mistakes. With the run game never firmly established and the passing attack unable to be sustained when they weren’t hurrying to the next play, UNLV had little difficulty figuring out what would get called next. I don’t presume to know what should be done to Nevada’s coaching staff following this season, but their inability to win a game with this much off-field importance riding on it hasn’t helped themselves.

  • I simply can’t bring out the sunshine pump and sugar coating for this game. Even without the “losing to a high school coach with one year of grad assistant experience” angle, this is a bad, bad loss. It was UNLV’s first win over an FBS team in nearly a year, and their first road win since November of 2013. You’d have to go back to New Mexico State in 2008 to find a Wolf Pack loss that was nearly this indefensible and instantly cringeworthy. When have the sentences “We lost to UNLV at home” and “We deserve to play in a bowl game” ever been uttered back to back in northern Nevada? Probably never, as no Wolf Pack team that has lost to UNLV since moving up to the FBS in 1992 has gone on to play in one. The time to panic starts now.

  • The public reaction to it all has been justifiably swift. In what was likely the last time we’ll see a crowd near 30,000 at pre-renovation Mackay Stadium, the fans were at their loudest, most deafening and most effective when the tide began to turn in the fourth quarter. And what a sight that was to see and be a part of! But instead of getting sent home happy and eager to return the following week, they filed out of the stadium emotionally spent, cursing a silver and blue streak all the way back to their cars, and sopping wet (seriously, first the baseball team gets rained out of its own conference tournament, and now the Cannon game?! I swear if the roof at Lawlor ever starts leaking…). Imagine that game as an audition for the hearts and minds (and wallets) of casual fans. After arriving late, flubbing all of the big lines and vomiting on stage, the team wouldn’t have gotten a callback. Some of you will say that isn’t fair, and I completely agree with you, but it’s also the truth. Now the New Mexico game will be lucky to have two thirds of those fans back, and the six-team slap fight that is the West Division is looking a lot more imposing for the increasingly wounded and offensively challenged Pack. “Never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity,” remember? Preseason prediction: Nevada 35, New Mexico 31. Revised prediction: New Mexico 31, Nevada 21.

  • Keep on doing whatever it is you’re doing, Muss, and the rest of us will hold out hope for an Eron Gordon/Devearl Ramsey (GET IT?!) two-fer in the coming weeks. It's important to remember that Eric Musselman has never been a college head coach before, and that working immediate miracles with the roster he inherited is likely asking too much. But even with those cautious expectations for this season, we’ll have our stunna shades ready for the following year.

The Beer

Santa Fe Chicken Killer Barley Wine Ale (Santa Fe, New Mexico) ~ If you saw the word “wine” just now and wondered whether I’d gone full Booze Snob on you, relax. Whether spelled as one or two words, barleywines are, in fact, beers, as they’re made with grains instead of fruit. The name comes from their wine-like alcohol content, extensive range of ingredients and flavors, and ability to be aged however little or as much as you’d like. There are two styles of modern barleywines: the more bitter, hoppy American, and the subtler-tasting, more colorful English. Chicken Killer more closely resembles the latter, pouring a glowing amber color with a moderate head that left some nice lacing inside my glass. The smells are light, but all over the place, from caramel malt, dark fruit and biscuit to molasses, brown sugar and alcohol. A medium-bodied, sweet taste with light hop bitterness follows, slowly mellows as the beer warms, and finishes off-dry. What it lacks in aggressiveness it makes up for with terrific balance, and at 10% ABV, it goes down surprisingly smooth, so be careful. This is a barleywine you can share with your friends who’ve never tried one before: a pleasant entry point to bigger, more grandiose offerings, or a comfortable go-to choice if you prefer subtlety over extravagance. I give it three and a half tipsy Wolfies out of five.

All fan mail (burning or otherwise) can be sent to:
Andrew Maurins
c/o North RV Lot
Campus of THE University of Nevada
Reno, NV 89557

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