The Bullet Points
- The bar of increasingly lowered expectations, that is. While it’s true that a win at Fresno State was not something I predicted before the season started, its circumstances make it hard for the needle of excitement to move much farther past “That’s cool, I guess.” Yeah, the last two games have been wins, but they’ve come against two terrible opponents in slap fight fashion. Like the previous outing against Hawaii, a disconcerting first half was followed up by a much better — albeit still flawed — second half. Two long scoring drives in the third quarter that well and truly drained the Fresno defense only resulted in six points. Even with 5 minutes left in the game, that same dried out Bulldog husk — like a shambling zombie with exit wounds everywhere EXCEPT on the back of its head — still had a chance to tie the game with two quick scores. Credit the Bulldog offense for getting not one, but two touchdowns called back on penalties for a convenient metaphor of their entire season. Also, thank Fresno’s quarterbacks for lobbing up enough pop flies for Dameon Baber to track down and finally end the proceedings. Tri-tip sandwiches all around!
- I was able to watch most of Thursday night’s game at a watch party celebrating the grand opening of Silver and Blue Outfitters’ second location. It’s literally right across Virginia Street from Lawlor Events Center, and on a scale of “one” to “awesome,” it’s like a medium rare Rebel steak coated in a demi-glace of Bronco tears. My hat is off to Mark and Brad for everything they’ve done and continue to do for Nevada athletics, and they deserve your business.
- If Nevada’s final four opponents played out like a video game, the Bulldogs were the first level boss, and San Jose State is like the tricky mini-boss in the next dungeon. They match up pretty evenly with Nevada across the board aside from a few categories: total defense, where the Spartans have yielded about 52 fewer yards per game; penalties, with San Jose State currently the least penalized team in the country yardage-wise; and rushing output, with Nevada getting their higher totals from two above-average players, and the Spartans getting theirs from one exceptional player in senior Tyler Ervin. In other words, that 1-point spread the game opened with is about right, if slightly generous for the Pack. It’s solidly adequate, generally mistake-free football versus home field advantage and senior day, and a bowl berth will likely go to the winner. Another egg laid at the season’s final home game would not ingratiate Polian any further with still unimpressed fans. So…no pressure or anything. Preseason prediction: Nevada 31, San Jose State 17. Revised prediction: San Jose State 28, Nevada 27.
- With similar vigor — and similar flaws — the basketball team wrapped up its preseason with another convincing exhibition win, this time 84-53 over the fantastically named Alaska Nanooks. Free throws were much less of a factor this time around (22 of 26), some more success with three pointers was had (6 of 20), and the overall defensive effort pleased Coach Musselman. It’s the last time fans will get to see the team in person before they embark on a three-game tournament in Hawai’i to open the season. Taking two out of three on the islands would constitute a successful trip, I think. I really like where the team is trending, but there are enough knocks against them that the Kool-Aid can’t be fully guzzled until next year. They’ll have some nights where the shots won’t fall and they’ll lose to some teams they should beat, but they’ll also have some great shooting nights and beat some teams they shouldn’t. I’m sticking with my sizzling hot take of “finish better than 9th place,” and will add a predicted season finish of 18-14, with a second round exit in the conference tournament. A lesser postseason appearance — think CBI or CIT — might be in the cards if they do well enough in non-conference play, and the rest of the Mountain West helps them out. All in all, a fair-to-good debut for Mussketball, and just enough of a taste of what’s to come to get people excited.
- I’ll end this week’s sports business with one last plug for another endeavor I can get behind. It’s a non-profit group called Strengthen The Pack, and it was started by several of my friends and fellow Wolf Pack fans. For less than the price of a Netflix subscription, you can chip in a monthly micro-donation to help Nevada athletics reach fundraising goals for various smaller projects. You’ll be kept up to date on exactly where your money is going, and it’s completely tax-deductible. At a minimum, take a look through their FAQ page. Their mission statement says it best: “It won’t take a lot from each individual, but it will take a little from a lot of us to make a difference!”
Almanac Emperor Norton Belgian-style Tripel (San Francisco, California) ~ San Francisco has long been known for its independent spirit and eagerness to embrace colorful misfits and outcasts. And for a long while, no one embodied this eccentricity better than English immigrant Joshua Norton. In 1859, after a failed business deal presumably drove him mad, he declared himself Emperor of the United States, began circulating his own currency, and issued royal proclamations through local newspapers. He’s a fascinatingly bizarre man, and if you want to learn more about him, the podcast Stuff You Missed in History Class has you covered. Local contract brewery Almanac honored the late Emperor with this equally quirky Belgian-style ale, which pours a hazy, golden orange with a very light head. The smell of dried apricots partly explains the color, and those same apricots — grown in California, of course — dominate the taste, along with Citra and Hallertau Blanc hops. It finishes sharply without being harsh, and except for the 9% ABV, it really doesn’t fit the description of a typical tripel. Therein lies much of its appeal: it’s legitimately one of a kind and hard to pin down, not unlike its namesake. I can honestly say it’s the best apricot beer I’ve ever tried, although it’s worth mentioning the only two others I’ve had were mostly terrible. Whether you’ll like this beer largely depends upon your stance on those apricots. Ultimately, my main test for a beer is whether I’d seek it out again if given the chance, and this one passes it. I give it three and a half tipsy Wolfies out of five.
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