The Wolf of Virginia Street ~ Week 7

All hail the mostly mediocre Mountain West, and the Wolf Pack's place somewhere near the bottom of it.

The Bullet Points

  • This isn’t to say there weren’t some bits of good to be singled out and praised from the Pack’s discomforting 27-22 win over Fresno State. Wyatt Demps had a performance that finally justified some of the hype he’s received. Tyler Stewart was fine in the way we’ve come to expect him to be most weeks. For all of their prior failures that evening, the defense came up with four straight stops at the most important time. And even with a fumble to his name, James Butler looked much more like his usual self. But if you’re wondering why all of those compliments sound a little backhanded, it’s because there was still a lot of bad context surrounding those bits of good. The fact remains that Nevada struggled with a thoroughly unimpressive opponent for the third straight week. The main difference this time is that home field and a few other breaks — like penalties and would-be turnovers — worked in their favor for a change. Those positives are the nougat of goodness surrounded by the peanuts, caramel and milk chocolate of disappointment. Think about that: I just used a beloved American candy bar as a metaphor for the sad current state of Wolf Pack football. In the month of Halloween, no less! That is an unambiguously poor place to be.

  • Remember when you were a kid and your parents would get on your case about cleaning your room? Then you’d do the least amount of work you could get away with, which was mostly stuffing clothes and toys into the nearest closet just out of their sight? That was the equivalent of what we saw at Mackay Stadium on Saturday. Leading up to the game, Brian Polian was plenty contrite with the press about the need to “get [his] own house cleaned up.” He said all the things you’d expect a coach to say after a pair of indefensible losses in his fourth season on the job. But when the proving time came around, he oversaw a result where the Pack skated by with the bare minimum effort needed to eventually get a win against an equally bad opponent. And just like with the kid and their messy room, any amount of scrutiny exposes plenty of corner-cutting, temporary fixes and bits of garbage you’d swear were dealt with ages ago. The rushing defense remained awful, serving as a veritable energy drink for Fresno State’s formerly comatose ground attack. Only 27 points could be mustered against a defense that was allowing almost twice that amount per game beforehand. A special teams unit quickly earning a reputation for underachieving somehow found a new bottom to sink to (though at least a slew of injuries can be reasonably blamed there). In short, the play we witnessed did not match up with the hair-on-fire urgency Polian had promised fans leading up to the game. And judging from his increasing disdain for negativity about the team in the press, he knows it, too:

  • Nevada’s next attempt to wring some good news out of an increasingly disappointing campaign takes them to San Jose. There, they’ll face a Spartan team just as, if not more desperate for something on which to hang their hats -- er, Corinthian helmets. They’re the kind of opponent where the best thing you can say about them is “They don’t get penalized much,” which, as far as compliments go, is right up there with saying your punter is your best player. Neither team does any one thing especially well enough to warrant commenting on it at length, meaning we’ve probably got another hissy slap fight on our hands. Even sports books seem to agree, with many listing this game as a pick ‘em. This is where Nevada finds itself halfway through the season: being considered a coin flip against another team that is currently winless against FBS competition. Just like last week, a win wouldn’t prove anything, but another nail-biter or loss would further embolden critics. Hooray for mediocrity, we guess…? Pre-season prediction: Nevada 31, San Jose State 28. New prediction: Nevada 28, San Jose State 27.

The Beer

Cellarmaker Coffee & Cigarettes Smoked Porter (San Francisco, California) ~ Before the season began, I took a much-needed beer vacation (beer-cation?) to the Bay Area. Don’t get me wrong: I love you folks, but writing is still writing, and beer is always beer. I went to lots of different places, talked to lots of different people and tried LOTS of different beers. It was a tiny slice of inebriated heaven, and the closest I came to sipping divine nectar on that trip was in a brewery on Howard Street in San Francisco. Like its name suggests, C&C combines coffee and smoke in a taste experience which is far better than it might sound. Naturally, it poured black as coffee with a sizable tan head. My nose was filled with so many sublime coffee smells — from locally sold beans, of course — I was inhaling them from my glass like a freak before I even took a sip. The taste superbly balanced roasted coffee notes with chocolate and smoked malts without being bitter. Imagining the taste of cigarettes here is a little misleading, as the smokiness was subtle, and only present on the back end of sips. The whole beer was supremely drinkable in repeat sittings, and made me curse its extremely limited distribution outside of the city. I’m not kidding: the next time you’re in the neighborhood, get off your butt and go to Cellarmaker. It was the best beer of my entire trip, and I give it a perfect five 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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