by Jack Rieger
On Saturday night, I was stationed at a popular drinking establishment near the University of Nevada campus with several of my fellow students. In between laughing about the new season of “South Park” and being mesmerized that Vin Scully has been broadcasting Dodgers games since 1950, I asked my friends what they thought about the Nevada football game that took place earlier that day. Their answer: “We didn’t watch.”
This is the state of Nevada football four weeks into the 2016 season. The vast majority of students are disinterested in discussing — let alone actually watching — the football team play on a weekly basis. And I don’t blame them. Despite forcing four turnovers against Purdue on Saturday and committing none itself, the Wolf Pack found a way to lose by 10 points to the worst team in the Big 10. Simply losing the game wasn’t all that disappointing, as Purdue was favored by five points at kickoff. It was Nevada refusing to take advantage of four Boilermaker turnovers that made the loss especially frustrating.
The single most exciting moment of the day came when kicker Brent Zuzo shanked a 27-yard field goal that would’ve tied the game with 4:20 remaining. Besides the drama at the end, the game was sloppy, lacked rhythm and was uninteresting. Nevada’s run-heavy offense and its inability to create explosive plays make the offense predictably boring, as the Wolf Pack averaged just 2.1 yards per rush and 5.6 yards per pass on Saturday. While the Nevada defensive line had a hard time containing Purdue’s running game, the Boilermakers did everything they could to lose the game, turning the ball over twice in the red zone.
When the football team and the local community complain that student attendance is awful, it’s not because of the intensity of the tailgate or the time of the game; it’s because the product isn’t very good. Nobody wants to watch halfback draws and bubble screens all game, especially if they result in a loss.
If Nevada Athletics wants students to come to games instead of just leaving after the tailgate, there needs to be some excitement to negate Nevada’s boring play-calling. Ingeniously, coach Eric Musselman had the basketball team put on a Harlem Globetrotter-like circus act before games last year, along with an exciting slam-dunk contest. This, coupled with the team’s on-court success and aggressive play, greatly boosted attendance at home games. In an effort to inspire more students to attend football games, I’ve come up with three suggestions Nevada Athletics could easily implement starting Oct. 8 when Nevada hosts Fresno State.
1. Coach Polian runs the 40-yard dash against a random student
This accomplishes several things. First of all, Polian has an image problem with the average student; most students think he is this angry, cold tyrant who doesn’t have a sense of humor. Polian is occasionally kind of witty, and if students see him running a race against another student during the pregame warmups, he immediately becomes much more likable. Secondly, Polian is competitive as hell and would absolutely take this seriously. There is no way he’s letting a student beat him in any sort of athletic competition, and inside sources tell me that Polian runs at a 6.0 speed on a Lombardi treadmill nearly every day.
2. Place three wolves in a cage at midfield
Here’s how this works: Nevada hires the Bear Grylls of Reno to capture three wolves, doesn’t feed them for several days and then places them in one cage at midfield before the game starts. Seriously, what’s the worst that could happen? Worst case: the wolves viciously attack each other until one remains, and Nevada then formally names him or her the official wolf for that year. Best case: they don’t react to each other at all and just sit there while thousands of anxious fans wait for something terrible to happen. Either way, it’s great drama and will undoubtedly attract thousands of newfound Nevada fans.
3. Have Kaepernick sing the national anthem
Colin Kaepernick singing the national anthem at his former school would become a national media ejaculation. Nevada Athletics calls Kaepernick and asks if he would be interested in singing the national anthem at the next home game. Considering he isn’t playing much football these days, Kaepernick’s Saturdays are pretty open, so he says yes. Just before kickoff, Kaepernick walks to midfield and sings the national anthem from a knee, confusing all of America and supplying news content for all major networks. Overwhelmed by emotion, Kaepernick then throws on his old Nevada uniform and starts at quarterback for the Wolf Pack. Nevada Athletics benefits hugely from the news coverage and ticket revenue, and Mackay Stadium becomes the most famous stadium in college football for a week.
The community loves coach Polian, Nevada has a real mascot and Kaepernick is playing for the Wolf Pack again. You’re welcome for doing your job, Nevada Athletics.
Jack Rieger can be reached on Twitter @jrieger and by email firstname.lastname@example.org.