The Wolf of Virginia Street, Week 13

Belated holiday treats from Andrew Maurins. The Wolf of Virginia Street is here.

This week’s column could be entitled “How Not To Play With A Lead: Two Nevada Examples.”

The Bullet Points

  • When I saw on my phone that Nevada had built up a 27-7 lead over Utah State at the beginning of the second half, I had two thoughts. First thought: Huzzah! Second thought: ’Tis but a cruel tease, for it shan’t last! My inner thoughts speak exclusively in Ren-fest. And over the next 28 or so minutes of game time, Nevada had inflicted upon them what they should’ve inflicted upon the Aggies: a slow, Ag-onizing (see what I did there?) capitulation that saw their 20-point lead slowly collapse like a flan in a cupboard. It happened on special teams, with one long return after another yielded to a stronger, less injury-riddled home side, and on offense, which seemed to quickly run out of ideas that didn’t involve “politely give the ball back to Utah State” and “continue apologizing to your defense.” It’s yet another chapter added to the Big Wolf Pack Book of Wouldas, Couldas and Shouldas. More missed opportunities, more pieces to pick up, and more hand-wringing from Brian Polian we’ve distinctly heard before. The self-destruction wasn’t nearly as sad to witness as the utter predictability of it all. But luckily, it gets better from here!

  • By “luckily” I mean “unfortunately,” and by “better” I mean “the absolute, most opposite galaxy away from better.” The Pack ends the regular season with a trip to meet the newly division-crowned Aztecs of San Diego State. And odds are, their trip will include long runs from Donnel Pumphrey, a mostly empty NFL stadium, and another just-less-than-a-penalty tantrum from Coach Polian (how’s that “sideline presence” working out for Doug Knuth, I wonder?). For reasons unknown to most everyone, SDSU went 1-3 in non-conference play before flipping some magical switch only non-Nevada Mountain West teams seem to possess and went on a seven-game tear. Are the Aztecs really that good? Is the rest of the conference really that bad? Does it particularly matter either way? The Pack had better hope that the mostly meaningless nature of this game for San Diego State translates to walking out of Qualcomm with their heads still attached to their torsos. Pretty much nothing else about this game looks good for Nevada, and they’re likely better off looking ahead to their own probable-but-still-unjustified bowl game. They have averaged 37.3 points per game against the Aztecs since joining the league, so there’s still that, I guess? Preseason prediction: San Diego State 41, Nevada 31. Revised prediction: San Diego State 48, Nevada 24.

  • Our second tale features some of that same inability to play with a lead, albeit with a happier ending. In spite of not being able to impose the tempo they wanted, the basketball team eventually emerged from Pacific’s Spanos Center victorious for the first time since 2005. “Eventually” is the key word there, as the ends of regulation and the first overtime period featured inexplicable lapses in an otherwise solid defensive performance that allowed the Tigers to survive. Even the end of the second overtime followed the same pattern of Nevada clinging to a one-score lead as the Tigers chucked up more three point shots. But an ugly win is still a win, and showed the team they can still do just that even if they’re taken out of their element and put in unfamiliar positions. Future conference games against Wyoming and Air Force, in particular, will feature the same ground out, slowed down pace Nevada was forced to adapt to on Saturday.

  • And what kind of a columnist would I be if I didn’t devote an entire bullet point to Marqueze Coleman this week? The senior guard is playing exactly like the man with unfinished business he's been portrayed as this year. His last two performances can only be described (with all due respect to him) as Burton-esque, putting up a valiant 34 points in the loss at Hawai’i and tacking on another 31 while playing all 50 minutes against Pacific. I get slightly tired just watching someone play 50 minutes straight. He isn’t putting up these numbers Kobe-style, either — he’s still finding numerous opportunities to dish to open teammates and making plays on defense, too. Knowing all of this, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Coleman did NOT win the Mountain West’s player of the week award for his efforts, because we’re Nevada and we can never have nice things for long.

  • If you’re reading this before the Pack’s home opener against Portland State, arriving early will afford you the chance to see something really neat. Eric Musselman is resurrecting an unusual pre-game warm-up routine his father Bill made famous at Minnesota in the early 70s. It’s part circus act, part Harlem Globetrotters game, and this Minneapolis Star Tribune article from last year does a great job of breaking it all down, even including some choice quotes from the younger Musselman. It’s not clear whether Nevada will do this for every home game, so a strong response from the crowd — both volume-wise and in the form of higher ticket sales — are imperative. But whether it succeeds in driving up ticket sales is partly beside the point: how do you not love the look on an opposing player's face as they try to make sense of a unicycle on a basketball court?

The Beer

Ballast Point Calm Before The Storm Cream Ale (San Diego, California) ~ When I was in college, I sometimes ranted against performers who “sold out” to The Man in order to make a buck. It wasn’t until I was older that I understood the real reason I disliked this: because no one would pay ME a mountain of cash for my own “unique services.” Also, scraping by to pay bills really, really sucks. I thought back to those days recently when Ballast Point announced their acquisition by Constellation Brands for $1 billion. That’s not a typo — that is, in fact, the word “billion” with a big, fat, diamond-encrusted “b.” The younger me would’ve resented the hops out of this, but the current me is extremely happy for their owners, and — provided their quality doesn’t go down — will happily continue to ride their bandwagon. On that subject, Calm pours a slightly dark gold with a small head that left some nice lacing in my Ballast Point stem glass (my fanboy flag flies high). The smell is coffee beans with some light caramel and malt notes. It tastes of that same cold coffee, but very modestly, and finishes with equally light vanilla and chocolate flavors. The body is light-medium, keeping with the cream ale style. It’s unusual to taste coffee in a beer that outwardly looks like any other pale lager — those are often the realm of darker beers — but the effect still works. I’m more partial to strong coffee flavors myself, but that’s not the objective here. Easy sipping, but just complex enough for discerning palates, its label also features some skeleton pirate artwork straight off of a Meatloaf album cover. Sweet. 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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