By Neil Patrick Healy
Is it basketball season yet? I’m sure this thought must have crossed the minds of almost every Nevada fan after last Friday’s disappointing show by the football team. A win is a win, right? Yes, but not all wins are created equal, and an overtime win against an FCS team that went 4-7 last season isn’t anything to get excited about. Not only does it lack the bang you want when opening a new season and boasting new stadium renovations, but it showed the multiple glaring flaws this team still hasn’t overcome. Here is why the home opening win spells trouble ahead for Nevada in 2016.
THE OFFENSE IMPLODED
After an electric first quarter where Nevada scored three touchdowns on four possessions, the offense completely fell apart. Here are some numbers to prove it.
· If you take out his 50-yard touchdown run, running back James Butler averaged a mere 3.5 yards per carry for the game.
· After accumulating 269 yards of offense in the first half, Nevada could only scrape together 94 total yards in the second half and overtime.
· After going 12-for-16 for 139 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, quarterback Tyler Stewart went 5-for-7 for 50 yards.
· Nevada only recorded three first downs in the entire second half of regulation and in overtime.
Not exactly the debut that first-year offensive coordinator Tim Cramsey wanted.
THE DEFENSE LOOKED TERRIBLE
I know the triple option is tough to defend, and head coach Brian Polian made sure we all knew that. But Nevada’s defense played its best game of the season against New Mexico’s triple-option attack, and that was on a normal week of practice after a tough loss to UNLV. Polian dedicated a large portion of training camp to practice against the option, and Nevada still gave up 383 yards on the ground. This front seven lost a ton of talent and experience last year, and that fact was glaring last Friday.
IT ONLY GETS TOUGHER FROM HERE
What makes matters worse for Nevada is that the next game is in South Bend against a high-powered Notre Dame offense. Then the Pack hosts Buffalo, flies back to Indiana to take on Purdue and then has to fly to Hawaii the week after that. Nevada could easily be 2-3 heading into the game against Fresno State (which is always tough) and into an underrated road game against San Jose State.
Pile on the unforgiving November schedule, which has home games against San Diego State and Utah State and road games against New Mexico and UNLV. I wouldn’t be surprised if Nevada went 0-4 during that stretch. Realistically I’m guessing 1-3, but I’m not going to be shocked if Nevada throws up a fat zero in the month of November.
Here is my schedule prediction for the rest of the season:
AT NOTRE DAME: LOSS
AT PURDUE: LOSS
AT HAWAII: WIN
FRESNO STATE: LOSS
AT SAN JOSE STATE: WIN
AT NEW MEXICO: LOSS
SAN DIEGO STATE: LOSS
UTAH STATE: WIN
AT UNLV: LOSS
What makes the Cal Poly game so disconcerting for Nevada isn’t just the need for overtime to put a supposedly inferior team away; it’s that it’s the beginning of another sub-.500 season and an invite to a bowl that is either the first bowl game not on national television since the mid-’90s or one that starts at 8 a.m. local time.
Neil Patrick Healy can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @NP_Healy.