by Jack Rieger
A week after almost losing to an FCS opponent, Nevada football was paid $1 million to travel to South Bend, Indiana, and compete against the most glorified college football team in American history: the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The majority of the contest went pretty much exactly as you would expect — Nevada was dominated in every facet by a more talented team. But in the midst of the pandemonium that is a college football game, several things happened that everyone totally overlooked.
Coach Brian Polian ditches the visor, adds a pair of shades
In a shocking move that no one saw coming, coach Brian Polian decided not to wear his infamous visor and instead wear of pair of sunglasses during Saturday’s game. Polian is notorious for his visor; some even say it’s a representation of his personality and general outlook on life, so to see Polian without it was unusual. But then there were the pitch-black sunglasses, which looked like the same pair worn by Mr. Anderson in the Matrix trilogy.
Polian’s snow-white quarter-zip coupled with a long white-sleeved undershirt — and Mr. Anderson’s shades — was overwhelming to take in at once. All of a sudden with the new sunglasses, Polian seemed under control, focused and confident. It was like when Lebron’s headband fell off with eight minutes remaining in game six of the 2013 NBA finals. Lebron was no longer hiding his receding hairline, and his newfound freedom led the Heat to its second ring in as many years. Which begs the question: what was Polian hiding under his visor?
Mike Tirico calls a Wolf Pack game
For all of you normal, non-nerds who don’t follow sports announcers religiously, Mike Tirico is an A-list play-by-play announcer for NBC. Tirico spent 25 years at ESPN and nine of those years as the top play-by-play man for Monday Night Football. Tirico has also called NBA games for ESPN for 14 years, and he is considered one of the sharpest, most talented announcers the sports world has to offer. All of which made watching Tirico call a Nevada football game so weird. And the greatest part was that Tirico knew the subtle storylines surrounding Nevada’s football team. The same guy that beautifully annotated the Eastern Conference Finals this past season was dissecting the Wolf Pack’s defensive-line issues.
Three different quarterbacks
Against UC Irvine last week, Nevada’s offense was very similar to the offense the team has run for the past several years: lot’s of shotgun sets with a running back to the side of the quarterback and less pistol. Against Notre Dame on Saturday, Offensive Coordinator Tim Cramsey was very creative with his play-calling, including safety Asani Rufus as the triple-option quarterback and backup quarterback Ty Gangi being substituted in and out as a run-first quarterback. Including starter Tyler Stewart, all three quarterbacks were used in the opening series, which went 62 yards on 10 plays. Gangi had moderate success as a runner (three carries for 15 yards) and threw a 68-yard pass on the final drive of the game.
The exotic play calls were included to keep Notre Dame — a more talented opponent — off balance. Polian said after the game that Gangi is “going to play throughout the course of the year,” but that the starting quarterback position is still Stewart’s. Stewart repeatedly overthrew his targets, completing just 10 of 23 passes for 113 yards as well as throwing an interception.
Jack Rieger can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @JackRieger.