By Neil Patrick Healy
Nevada football in 2016 is starting to look like the Titanic — a ship steaming straight toward an iceberg with plenty of warning signs alluding to disaster. The close encounter with Cal Poly and the second half against Purdue were blatant flashing red alerts screaming that the Wolf Pack wasn’t capable. Head coach Brian Polian stayed the course, insisting that the season wasn’t lost. Then the Hawaii game happened, and the ship began to take on water. A close call against an incompetent Fresno State team was merely scooping out the water with a bucket, and the most recent loss to a 1-5 San Jose State team is the part in the movie where the bow is being pulled down into the sea as the ship continues to flood. It’s safe to say the ship is going down.
Given the product we’ve seen on the field for seven weeks, it’s safe to say that the Wolf Pack isn’t a good football team. The record may be deceiving (3-4, 1-2 in MWC play), but if you dig a little deeper it’s obvious. The verdict is out, and this team is bad. People around the program may agree with that now, but if the Pack strings together a couple of more wins going into the UNLV game, then those same people may talk themselves into believing Nevada is better than it actually is. Fans fall for this trick all the time because they are slaves to the moment, but I heed everyone not to fall for it. If you’re still holding out hope, here’s why you’re going to continue to be disappointed.
DISAPPOINTING GAMES CONTINUE TO MOUNT
Former NFL coach Bill Parcells is famous for saying, “you are what your record says you are.” I think that phrase is wrong sometimes, and Nevada is one of those outliers, sitting at 3-4. The team is much worse than that. Over the course of the season, Nevada has either lost to or looked pedestrian against the easy portion of its schedule. Through seven weeks, Nevada’s opponents are a combined 16-30 and the teams that the Pack has lost to are a meager 10-17. Two of Nevada’s three wins could very easily be losses if the breaks didn’t go right for Polian. Needing overtime against an FCS school and having to hold Fresno State on a fourth and goal from the 4-yard line doesn’t inspire confidence.
The Wolf Pack’s record may be deceiving, but the statistics sure aren’t. The offense ranks No. 106 in passing yards and No. 86 in total offense, while the defense ranks No. 107 in total defense, is tied for No. 113 in total sacks and falls at No. 126 (out of 128, in case you were wondering) in rushing defense. The rushing statistics continue to mount negatively for Nevada. The defense has let its opponent rush for over 200 yards in five of its seven games and has allowed seven opposing running backs to rush over 100 yards.
Nevada is through with its easy portion of the schedule and is in danger of not winning another game for the rest of the season. The final five games come against opponents with a combined 17-14 record and include a much-improved Wyoming team, a road trip to triple option-running New Mexico, a 5-1 San Diego State, a final home game against Utah State and the season finale at UNLV. Wyoming and New Mexico both run the ball extremely well, SDSU has one of the best running backs in the country in Donnel Pumphrey and UNLV is vastly improved from a season ago.
THE CANNON IS PROBABLY STAYING RED
Speaking of UNLV, if you have been keeping track it must be discouraging for a Nevada fan to see how the Rebels have fared well against the opponents Nevada has struggled against. UNLV dismantled Fresno State 45-20 and beat Hawaii 41-38 on the road. If the Wolf Pack can scrape two more wins together, it will head into the biggest game of the year at 5-6 with a bowl berth on the line. With the Rebels hosting the rivalry game and the way both teams have fared against common opponents, it’s looking like the Fremont Cannon isn’t going anywhere this year.
IS THERE STILL HOPE?
No. Well, not much hope anyway. It’s merely a fool’s hope for Nevada to somehow win three or four more games and make this season seem like a success. Nevada fails the eye test and it fails statistically. When I said that the Hawaii loss was the best thing to happen to the program in four years, I really meant it. The ship has capsized and it won’t take long for the Titanic to split in half and sink to the bottom of the ocean. If you’re still onboard, I suggest abandoning ship. Don’t worry, there’s room on the floating door with Rose, since she let Jack drown.
Neil Patrick Healy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @NP_Healy.