The Wolf of Virginia Street ~ Week 9

OK, stop me if you've heard this one before: a Wolf Pack second-string quarterback sparks his offense after the starter gets hurt. And no, I only WISH it were 2007 again.

The Bullet Points

  • It was another “no cigar” kind of night for the Pack as they got knocked down, got back up and then got knocked down again for a 42-34 loss to Wyoming. Against a shorthanded defense already struggling against the run, the Cowboys ran so far away and did, in fact, get away, to the tune of 401 rushing yards. You knew exactly what to expect from Wyoming running back Brian Hill, and like a visit to the dentist, it still hurt all the same, as he averaged a hair under — alright, let’s just round it up — 10 yards per carry. Falling to 1-3 in Mountain West play and 3-5 overall, Nevada’s season continued to unravel with its fourth loss in its last five games. But one bright blue thread stood out amongst the shoddy tackling and sparse homecoming crowd. That would be sophomore quarterback Ty Gangi, who replaced Tyler Stewart after a shoulder injury brought an anticlimactic end to a career deserving of a much, much better…well, everything. After a shaky start, Gangi led the Pack to scores on five straight drives — what manner of sorcery is THIS?! — and very nearly came back to tie the game on two occasions. Ultimately done in by defense and injuries to said defense, Nevada mercifully heads into its bye week with a little more confidence in its offense, but no fewer answers on where they all go from here.

  • And that’s because a bad team with a little more entertainment to their name is still a bad team. Finally playing up to some of their preseason potential does not change the fact that they’ve underachieved up to now, and are still underachieving presently. A cracker topped with jalapeño artichoke dip might be a little tastier than it was before, but it’s still ultimately just a cracker. And a student doesn’t deserve extra credit for suddenly catching up on the work that everyone else has already turned in. The idea that Brian Polian is now less deserving of criticism because his offense rediscovered that strange, white object called the goal line is similarly flawed. Let me clear: the team’s injuries are real, they are numerous, and they are absolutely a factor in their struggles. But so, too, are they indicative of Polian’s inability to build depth over his four years at the helm, particularly along the offensive and defensive lines. Also worth remembering (for Gangi’s sake) is the fact that Wyoming’s pass defense was terrible to start with. Sure, they were a welcome confidence boost for a sophomore fresh off of a battlefield promotion, but they’re hardly indicative of what he’ll face the rest of the way. Some other facts that remain? Nevada’s defense is still mired in horridness, the team itself is still below .500, both in conference play and overall, and their path to a postseason appearance is disappearing fast. The only difference now is that we’ve at least found some spicy dip to make it all go down a little easier.

  • After a bye week badly needed to recover from a M.A.S.H. unit’s worth of injuries, the Pack heads to Albuquerque for a must-win game, and (we assume) to take part in various references to Breaking Bad. Singling out this game above others as “must-win” is misleading, though, because every game fits that description when your season and job are both at stake. The bad news is the Lobos’ ground attack, which presumably saw the Wyoming game and started a locker room pool for how many yards they will rack up next week. Then the NCAA will get wind of it and put a stop to it all, because the NCAA is terrible and hates fun. The good news – and my sarcasm is at the bare minimum level there – is that %%MATCH_5%%’s defense gives up plenty of points. It sets up well for Gangi to keep the good times rolling in his first career start, and this time he’ll have a whole 60 minutes to work with. Unfortunately, he’ll still have the millstone of Nevada’s run defense hanging around his neck, a unit especially ill-suited to tackle (pun intended) the Lobos’ triple option-ish scheme. Expect a fully gassed defense and lots of rushing touchdowns by the end of this one. Preseason prediction: New Mexico 35, Nevada 27. New prediction: New Mexico 41, Nevada 31.

The Beer

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale (Milton, Delaware) ~ Halloween — a.k.a. All Hallows' Eve, a.k.a. Nevada Day, a.k.a. The Christmas Pre-game Show — is almost upon us. But unlike those bits of Santa Claus paraphernalia currently creeping onto retail shelves, pumpkin beers have already been on sale for awhile. One of the most famous of these seasonal brews is Punkin, released every September with new label artwork. It poured a clear, reddish, caramel orange into my glass with minimal head, smelling faintly of pumpkin, clove and cinnamon. Tastes start off with that same pumpkin, then give way to a little cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar and light hop bite before finishing in a way I can only describe as “autumn-like.” I would’ve liked some more noticeable non-pumpkin flavors, but the whole thing was pleasant enough, and deceptively strong at 7% ABV. If you have a friend who swears up and down that they hate pumpkin beers, give them a sip of Punkin Ale. It’s different enough from the “pumpkin spice plus beer” cliche that it might surprise them. 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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