The Bullet Points
- First, a brief disclaimer for purposes of thoroughness. None of us were able to watch Saturday’s [expletive]-storm on TV anywhere, so I realize that trying to analyze football stats without any kind of visual context is a little like flying a plane with only instruments. But for reasons I outline below, I don’t feel that’s entirely necessary.
- We begin this week’s grappling with some movie talk, specifically Office Space. It’s about a programmer named Peter who is deeply unhappy with his job at a tech company. One day, Peter’s girlfriend convinces him to attend an occupational therapy session where a doctor places him under hypnosis. But before he can snap Peter out of it, the doctor keels over and dies of a heart attack. Staying under hypnosis for the next few days, Peter experiences a kind of blissful clarity that he uses to advance at his job, and start devising a scheme to exact revenge on the company. Saturday night’s 38-17 defeat at Hawai’i was my "Office Space moment," when I was finally able to sit back and accept the horrendous state of Nevada Wolf Pack football with that same blissful clarity. I didn’t throw things, yell or swear. Didn’t even jump out of my seat, actually. When the Warriors went up by two scores, I just pulled a beer out of my fridge, and started typing away.
- Even without a TV feed, the notable stats from this game make the nature of this loss clear. It was tied for Nevada’s most lopsided conference loss since joining the Mountain West in 2012. Hawai’i put up 344 yards on the ground, their most rushing yards in nearly two seasons. It was the Rainbow Warriors’ first conference win in those same twenty-two months, and just their fifth Mountain West win overall. If Purdue was a bad loss, this one was downright putrid, and none of the facts that verify it require a TV broadcast. Any lingering hopes Nevada had of using this season to make a statement, move up to the next level, or whatever similar cliché you’d prefer, just evaporated. Instead of looking to a brighter future, the Pack was brought crashing back to the present, given more pieces to pick up, and tasked with making sense of where they stand as a program. End all of that talk, and ask how much lower can this team sink, and how quickly? Or for a lower bar, simply try to envision the Pack playing in a bowl game somewhere in their current state. Even in an increasingly pathetic Mountain West, and even with a fourth-year head coach, Nevada is just another anonymous lightweight. Spare the players your criticisms, however, and instead direct them at the people getting paid to lead them. Buying out Brian Polian is unlikely to be an attractive thought for the director of a cash-strapped athletic department, but Doug Knuth’s hand may be forced sooner than he’d like. If this loss doesn’t get the attention of anyone on North Virginia Street, four more home games with dwindling crowds will.
- And the company they’ll have when they return home to face Fresno State this week is decreasingly small comfort. For all of Nevada’s problems in all three phases of play, the Bulldogs’ continued struggles give them at least a shred of hope to reverse their current slide. It has all the makings of a pillow fight of brain-numbing proportions that only the West Division of the Mountain West can bring you. Tim DeRuyter has been on his way out the door longer than Brian Polian, but the kid from Buffalo is quickly picking up steam. Neither team can stop the run, or sustain many offensive drives, or really do any one thing notably well. Who will emerge from the Thunderdome — nay, the Pillowdome — with their rags of self-respect less tattered? Who will rise up and cast down their opponent with a triumphant cry of “I’m slightly less terrible than you are!” With the benefit of finally returning home, I’m thinking/hoping/praying it’s Nevada. Failing that, I’ll have myself a nice time tailgating, and crank up the cognitive dissonance when the game is over. Pre-season prediction: Nevada 42, Fresno State 24. New prediction: Nevada 27, Fresno State 24.
- Finally, because the sports gods are occasionally merciful and decided to throw us a bone this week, Nevada announced it will build its long-dreamed-of basketball practice facility next summer. And that's a pretty damn big bone! The two basketball courts, eight baskets, multiple locker rooms and nutrition center will all be built in the soon-to-be-vacated Lombardi Rec Center across from Lawlor at a price tag of $2.5 million. It was made possible by a YUGE donation from former Wolf Pack point guard Ramon Sessions, who the building will (naturally) be named after. Chris Murray's above article correctly points out just how incredibly rare it is for a former student-athlete to give back to their program, much less in the form of seven figures. This gift is indicative of both Sessions' character, and of how fondly he remembers his time here, showing the kind of impact that great fan support can have on a team. Do not kid yourself: if and when a bigger program comes sniffing around for Eric Musselman, he's one attractive offer away from moving onward and upward. If that's what comes to pass, of course that would have an impact on the program. But with projects like this in Nevada's corner, and a reenergized fan base more accustomed to success, it will remain an attractive destination for the next person in line. It's all about practicing the "camp site rule": leaving the program in better shape than it was in when you found it, raising the baseline expectations for your successors. And in their respective times here, Musselman, Knuth and company have unquestionably done that. I've been told this strange emotion I'm feeling in response to this news is called "happiness." As a Wolf Pack fan, I'm highly suspicious of it, and will now resume slowly killing it with alcohol and cynicism.
Firestone Walker Oaktoberfest (Paso Robles, California) ~ Here's some of that alcohol! If I keep doing a Firestone Walker beer for every Fresno State game, I’ll have to start dipping in to their super-fancy limited offerings. Because (of course) it’s all about you, my devoted readers! This is the brewery’s take on the traditional German märzen served during Oktoberfest, with the pun derived from the “Pass of the Oaks” in its home town’s name. It poured a clear golden orange with a decent white head that soon dissipated. Faint traces of honey permeated the smell, along with some bread and lemongrass. The taste is a solid balance of biscuity malts with a light hop bite, slightly sweet throughout, and it finished smooth with lingering malt flavor. While pleasant enough and nice for sipping, it was light on body for the style, and I found myself missing the more traditional caramel malts of other Oktoberfest beers. Even so, anything less than stellar from FW is rare, so give it a try all the same. I give it three tipsy Wolfies out of five.
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