The Bullet Points
- While the basketball team might’ve been the first group in action last week, the main event — the steel cage, 4-7 slap fight — was at Sam Boyd Stadium in not-quite-Henderson on Saturday. Facing the task of winning their first road game of the year as a 9.5-point underdog, and with a hideously red piece of artillery to remind them of last year’s bed-soiling, the Wolf Pack football team was...great! 45-10 great. By most measures, objectively great, in fact, for the first (and likely last) time all season long. James Butler accounted for 244 offensive yards and four touchdowns, while Ty Gangi gave Pack fans a potential glimpse of the future in accounting for 292 offensive yards and a touchdown of his own. After getting their lead cut to ten on a shake-your-head touchdown run by UNLV’s Kurt Palandech, the Rebels never got any closer or seriously threatened again afterwards. It was a well-rounded and truly cathartic win for a program that otherwise fell well short of its expectations this season.
- And now that yesterday’s news made it official, the wet blanket of the necessity of a coaching change needs to make one final appearance in this space. Even with a well-deserved celebration of this win, the overall underachievement of the program in Brian Polian’s time at the helm remains indisputable. In his fourth season — against one of the easiest schedules in the country, and in a down Mountain West Conference entirely ripe for taking advantage of — the Pack unquestionably failed to live up to their potential. Have you forgotten seeing them nearly lose to Cal Poly, Fresno State and Utah State? Or the horrendous, actual losses to Purdue, Hawai’i, San Jose State and San Diego State? How about the continuation of Polian’s sideline antics in spite of all the promises he made? Or his bizarre post-game excuses? Did you really want another year of any of that stuff? Another year of inexplicable lineman defections? Another year of “That’s a Big Ten team out there”? It’s not like he would’ve had a road map to a bowl game next year, anyway, with Northwestern, Toledo, Washington State, Air Force, Boise State and San Diego State already lined up. That was supposed to have been this year, remember? When factored in with the rapidly dropping attendance, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that lots of fans have already said “no thanks” to all of that, and forced Doug Knuth’s hand on Sunday.
- Next, a little devil’s advocate. The number of injuries he had to deal with this year was nothing short of obscene. The off-field qualities of his players were, with thankfully few exceptions, unimpeachable. And the display of Saturday afternoon remains incredibly satisfying this week. But all of that is merely one corner of goodness in a much bigger portrait of disappointment that we would’ve been foolish to fixate on. Polian finished his first stint as a college head coach with a losing overall record, and only two bowl appearances. The latter comes in an age when everyone and their mother can now play in a bowl game most years. This is what his teams were, and would’ve more than likely continued to be. When someone shows you who they really are, believe them the first time. Don’t let one convincing win or the program’s not unreasonable disadvantages soften your view of Brian Polian’s time here. We can, and should, demand more than what we saw from him. A change was needed in the leadership of Nevada Wolf Pack football, and now we get to find out who Doug Knuth has in mind to add to his track record of excellent hires.
- Moving on to basketball, Packsgiving weekend got off to a rip-roaring start against Oakland late Wednesday night in the Great Alaska Shootout. After the Pack missed their first nine shots in a decidedly NOT “shootout” performance, the Golden Grizzlies built up a lead that grew to 16 points by halftime. But this was (apparently) right where Nevada wanted them, chipping away at Oakland’s lead in the second half until a baffling string of four straight missed free throws left the door open for the unthinkable. The Pack took their first lead of the game a few minutes later on a Cameron Oliver trey, and the rest, as they say, is history. Next, the Pack went in to halftime against Buffalo with a three-point deficit to make up and presumably thought “No biggie.” And even with some of the ugly, ugly basketball that followed, that came true as well, with Lindsey Drew putting up a stat line that was, even by his normal standards, terrific: 11 points (with three 3-pointers), 8 assists, 6 rebounds and a steal. But in a fashion uncannily similar to last year’s Rainbow Classic tournament loss to Hawai’i, the Pack found itself in another close scrape with Iona, but relinquished too many three pointers and came up frustratingly short in the closing seconds of a 75-73 loss. Any number of little mistakes could’ve been decisive in the Pack’s championship game defeat, but it ultimately came down to not having quite enough in the tank for a fourth come-from-behind win in seven days.
- Next on deck for basketball are a home tilt against Pacific and another long flight, this one to Peoria, Illinois to meet the Fightin’ Richard Pryors of Bradley. Both teams have been mediocre so far, meaning it’s imperative that Nevada beat them both to maintain their place in early at-large conversations. That is, if they’ve been privy to any yet. Most of the Pack’s opponents thus far — with the obvious exception of Saint Mary’s — have not been particularly helpful in Nevada’s quest on that front. LMU has beaten only one D-1 team thus far, Oregon State continues to quite literally limp along, Oakland has played feathery soft nobodies, and Iona and Buffalo have precious little to judge off of so far. It’s possible Nevada’s next chance for a win of real consequence may not come until the following week at Washington, and the Huskies already have a home loss against Yale to their name. What’s more, the rest of the Mountain West has been only marginally better, with San Diego State’s neutral site win over Cal the best of the bunch so far. On their current trajectory, Nevada might have to go it alone in order to help their NCAA Tournament chances.
Sierra Nevada Maple Scotch-style Ale (Chico, California) ~ It’s another installment of “What’s In My Fridge?” this week. Every winter, Sierra Nevada puts out a “Snowpack” of different cold weather beers, and every winter, I shake my fist at the sky, imploring the beer gods to make the company’s Coffee Stout from that variety pack available in six-packs of its own. No progress has been made on that front, and since I already reviewed it last year, anyway, here’s another Snowpack beer. Maple Scotch poured a deep mahogany brown with a small, white head, and smelled faintly of (what else?) maple. That continues into the taste, along with little bits of fig, brown sugar, caramel and malty sweetness, finishing with an equally sweet aftertaste. It’s not what you’d call a typical American-style Scotch ale, as it downplays all the usual wee heavy malts in favor of that sweet, syrupy maple flavor. While this is OK on its face and makes for a pretty good cold-weather beer, there are much better, truer Scotch ales out there, like Full Boar from Devil’s Canyon or Old Chub from Oskar Blues. I give it three tipsy Wolfies out of five.
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