The Bullet Points
- After dutifully piling in to Harry’s Chocolate Shop on Saturday afternoon, my Dad and I got to talking to a few different Purdue fans who happened to follow us in to the legendary (and claustrophobic) watering hole. When we mentioned what a great time we’d been having that weekend leading up to the actual football game, a couple of them were visibly shocked to find out that Nevada had, in fact, lost. “We haven’t been used to winning much the last few years,” one of them told us. To be clear, the Boilermaker fans we encountered everywhere that day were nearly all helpful and friendly. But the subtext of those conversations at Harry’s was still clear: genuine surprise and unmitigated pity. “You guys lost? To us?! Man, your team must be terrible to do that!”
- And it’s hard to justify a gentler conclusion after the Wolf Pack’s maddening, inexplicable and ultimately indefensible 24-14 setback in West Lafayette. Purdue had all but gift-wrapped Nevada its third-ever road win over a power conference team before the Pack politely decided to re-gift it right back to them. In spite of getting out to another fast start, forcing four turnovers, and finishing with their fewest penalties in a game this year, their inability to sustain offensive drives or get out of their own way on special teams snatched defeat from the jaws of certain victory. Purdue’s beleaguered rushing defense held Nevada to 68 rushing yards, Tyler Stewart was continually let down by his offensive line, and little that Tim Cramsey dialed up between his first and final drives seemed to work. From the effort on the field to Brian Polian’s excuse-filled post-game press conference, nothing from this game should fill Pack fans with that strange emotion we’re told that other teams call “confidence.” Repeating “they’re a Big Ten team” does not lessen the sting of being out-coached by a man currently 23 games under .500 in the fourth season at his current job.
- Don’t kid yourself with any spin: this is a bad, bad, bad, bad loss. It’s rare that you don’t need the passage of additional time to state that, but in this case, I believe it’s true. The odds of Purdue suddenly jumping off to greatness after this game are about as slim as the Mountain West ever placing a team in the College Football Playoff. Darrell Hazell will probably be fired in the near future, and Nevada will once again grasp at straws for its inability to close the deal against another supremely mediocre power conference team. Just like Missouri in 2009, Texas Tech in 2011 and South Florida in 2012 — the same dance with slightly different music. The last time I was this certain of the level of horridness I had just witnessed was after the 2008 home loss to New Mexico State. I would put both that game and Saturday’s game in my top five (bottom five?) worst Wolf Pack football losses I have ever seen in person. The Pack will likely not have another opportunity like Saturday’s for a long time, and if watching it slip away didn’t anger you, it should. Mind you, a win wouldn't have proven much on Nevada's end, but a loss would be more akin to the highly unflattering update on the state of the program we instead witnessed. In a season that looked all but custom designed to help the Wolf Pack finally break through the seven-win threshold, Nevada failed its first major test. I’m no longer convinced that Brian Polian is the right man to lead this football program, and if others want to advocate for his firing, I won’t stop them. Saturday’s defeat was the latest chapter added to the unofficial theme of Nevada athletics in the 21st century: never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.
- But despite all of Nevada's ineptitude in their own game, the rest of the Mountain West — save for Boise State — seemed determined to either match it or top it. You could argue the Aztecs were the second-biggest winners of the day simply by virtue of not having played at all. Five out of twelve Mountain West teams -- nearly half the league -- enter the month of October without a single win against FBS competition between them. That level of overall suckitude is pretty much the best hope Nevada has going for them as they gear up for one more long plane flight to a road game, this time to open conference play at Hawai’i. At most other times the last few seasons, you could reasonably predict with some certainty that the Pack would find a way to beat the Rainbow Warriors. But after Saturday, and in their current mental and physical states, the playing field for both teams has leveled considerably. I legitimately have no idea if travel fatigue was a factor in the Pack’s loss at Purdue, but it has to be on the minds of at least a few people up on North Virginia Street right now. While Hawai’i has looked somewhat less impressive than Nevada up to this point, and the Pack's offense is different than the one Nick Rolovich ran when he coached here, his familiarity with most of the Pack’s current roster counts for something. I want to believe that Nevada can use the opportunity of conference play to start over fresh like San Diego State did to great effect last season, but I think throwing up my hands to cynicism can be forgiven here. Pre-season prediction: Nevada 38, Hawai’i 31. New prediction: Hawai’i 34, Nevada 27.
Sierra Nevada 35th Anniversary Our Brewers Reserve Ale (Chico, CA) ~ While Nevada may have formally celebrated Mackay Stadium’s 50th anniversary at the Buffalo game, the actual date of that occasion is this Saturday. Hence, a fancy-pants anniversary beer this week. It’s a blend of three of Sierra Nevada’s other beers: Bigfoot barleywine aged in oak barrels, Celebration IPA (released each November for Christmas), and their flagship Pale Ale. It poured a cloudy, deep amber with a surprising head for a beer more than a year old. Smells included fruit notes, caramel, and pleasing hops of resinous, piney varieties. The taste was those same hops, with mellow fruitiness, a bit of bourbon, and a hint of oak from the Bigfoot portion of the blend, and it finished pleasingly crisp. My only real complaint for an otherwise solid beer is that the taste didn’t quite justify the price. At about $20 a bottle, you’d hope for something at least approaching “mind-blowing” rather than simply “quite tasty.” Even so, I still greatly enjoyed it — just not enough to lay down a Jackson for another one. I give it four tipsy Wolfies out of five.
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