2021 Nevada Football

Joe Santoro: Get out of the way and let 'em play

Nevada linebacker Trevor Price, left, and defensive end Daniel Grzesiak (44) celebrate after a play against UNLV on Oct. 31, 2020, in Las Vegas. (Photo: John Locher/AP, file)

Nevada linebacker Trevor Price, left, and defensive end Daniel Grzesiak (44) celebrate after a play against UNLV on Oct. 31, 2020, in Las Vegas. (Photo: John Locher/AP, file)

We will be looking at one of the deepest, experienced and most talented University of Nevada football teams in history when the Wolf Pack season opens Sept. 4 at California.
You can thank COVID-19 for all of the depth, talent and experience, given that the seniors were handed another bonus year of eligibility in 2021 because they risked their health by playing during a pandemic last year. What this means as far as wins and losses are concerned in 2021, well, we’ll find out this fall. Every team in the nation, after all, has a roster bulging with depth and experience this year.
But the pieces are in place. This is a turn-key Wolf Pack football team that not even the play-calling decisions of head coach Jay Norvell and offensive coordinator Matt Mumme can mess up. As long as Pack players don’t sucker-punch the opposing team’s quarterback we should be in store for one of the greatest seasons in school history. All the coaches have to do now is get out of the way and make sure to keep everyone happy.
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Which Wolf Pack team is the deepest and most talented in school history? Yes, I know, silly question. That honor still has to go to the 2010 Wolf Pack, a roster that produced 10 NFL draft picks and about a dozen others that got at least a taste of professional football.
The 2010 Wolf Pack football team, which featured Colin Kaepernick, Vai Taua, Dontay Moch, Virgil Green, Duke Williams, Brandon Marshall, James-Michael Johnson, Rishard Matthews and two dozen or so others that will remain fixed in Wolf Pack history forever, deserves its own wing at Legacy Hall.
And don’t forget the best coaching staff in school history led by head coach Chris Ault, a staff that also included the likes of Andy Buh, Jim Mastro, Ken Wilson, Barry Sacks, Scott Baumgartner, Mike Bradeson, Cameron Norcross, James Spady and James Ward.
There’s a reason college football teams win. Talent, depth, coaching, experience, discipline and leadership. And, of course, luck and timing. And when it all comes together for a magical season, like in 2010, it is important to squeeze as much success out of all that good fortune as possible. The pressure is on for the 2021 Pack.
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The one area where the 2021 Wolf Pack’s depth, experience and talent is overflowing is at wide receiver and tight end. This year’s Pack has Romeo Doubs, Cole Turner, Elijah Cooks, Melquan Stovall, Tory Horton, Justin Lockhart, Reagan Roberson, Isaac Jernigan, Charles Ross, Jamaal Bell and Will Barnard all back from last year.
Doubs, Turner and Cooks are one of the best pass-catching trios on the west coast. But hold off for now from labeling them one of the best trios in school history. Looking back only as far as when the Pack jumped to Division I-A in 1992, we find tons of talented receiver groups.
The 1992 Pack had Bryan Reeves, Chris Singleton, Michael Stephens, Tom Matter and Mike Senior. The 1995 Pack had Alex Van Dyke, Damond Wilkins, Steve McHenry and Geoff Noisy. The 1996 Pack had Wilkins, Noisy and Trevor Insley. The following year Noisy and Insley were joined by Darin Higgins and Greg Russell. The 2002 Pack had Nate Burleson, Maurice Mann, Tim Fleming, Nichiren Flowers and Erick Streelman. The 2010 Pack had Virgil Green, Rishard Matthews, Brandon Wimberly, Malcolm Shepherd, Chris Wellington and Tray Session.
Norvell, Mumme and their so-called Air Raid offense did not invent the art of throwing the football at Nevada.
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An old nemesis came back to haunt the Wolf Pack baseball team last weekend.
The Wolf Pack, winners of 15 of their previous 17 regular season games, went to the Stanford Regional and, well, melted down. There’s something about postseason tournaments that brings out the worst in the Pack baseball team.
The Pack was beaten 7-0 by UC Irvine and 6-1 by North Dakota State and had just seven hits in the two games combined. It was the first time in five NCAA Regionals in school history that the Pack failed to win at least one game.
Carson High graduate Darrell Rasner is still the last Pack pitcher to win a NCAA Regional game (against Fresno State in 2000). And the Pack still has yet to win a Division I postseason tournament (conference tournament or NCAA Regional) in school history.
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Despite what happened at Stanford don’t for a moment think the Wolf Pack underachieved this year. The Pack, which lost 12-of-14 games in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, went to a regional for the first time since 2000. That alone makes the season a success.
But it also took a unique set of circumstances for that regional berth to come about. Don’t forget that this Pack team still finished just 25-20 this season. This year’s Wolf Pack simply devoured a bunch of slumping (or talent-deprived) Mountain West teams at just the right time to win the conference and get the automatic regional bid.
The Pack won its last 15 conference games. It was a noteworthy achievement but it is more a reflection of the quality of the conference this year than anything else. The Wolf Pack was just 3-11 outside the Mountain West this year, losing its last 10 non-league games and is 5-23 in non-league games over the past two seasons.
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You have to feel for former Mountain West quarterback Jordan Love (Utah State).
It’s not Love’s fault the Green Bay Packers drafted him late in the first round of the 2020 draft. It’s not Love’s fault that Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has acted like a spoiled 4-year-old since that draft. Love only played three seasons at Utah State and wasn’t even very good his last year (20 touchdowns, 17 interceptions).
Green Bay, though, should have been the perfect spot for Love. He should have gone to Green Bay and had the luxury of sitting on the bench and learning from a future Hall of Famer for two or three years before taking over. You know, like Rodgers did with Brett Favre.
But Rodgers, for some reason, has felt threatened by Love’s mere presence on the roster. And it hasn’t helped Love that the national media has supported Rodgers’ temper tantrum. All Love is trying to do is prove he is a NFL quarterback. And he might not be. He’s probably not ready. Not yet. But let’s allow him to find out, you know, until Rodgers grows up and stops pouting.
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LeBron James looked tired, bored and disinterested in this year’s playoffs. When the going got tough, the so-called GOAT went to the locker room.
When it was clear that Anthony Davis couldn’t carry LeBron to another championship, or at least past the Phoenix Suns, did LeBron put the Los Angeles Lakers on his back? Did he rally his teammates and act like The Greatest Player of All-Time? Did he go down fighting and take a few Suns with him and leave every ounce of energy in his 36-year-old bones on the court?
No, that’s not LeBron’s style. Michael Jordan would have gone out and scored 55 points if Scottie Pippen was injured. Before Jordan even had Pippen as a teammate, he went out and scored 63 against the Boston Celtics. Jordan didn’t always win but he never would have dreamed of walking to the locker room while the game was still going on. He wouldn’t have sat back and allowed the Suns to blow his team off the court.
LeBron is a great player. But he needs help. He’s always needed help. He knows that as well as anybody. That’s why he formed the Big Three in Miami and why he made sure the Lakers got Anthony Davis.
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The Las Vegas Golden Knights are truly one of the best sports stories of the past decade. But it’s hockey and it is happening in Las Vegas so, well, nobody outside of Southern Nevada seems to care. The Golden Knights, though, are a remarkable story.
The franchise is just four years old and has been to the playoffs all four times. They went to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2017-18 and the conference finals last year. This year they won three games in a row to go up 3-2 on the Colorado Avalanche going into Game 6 Thursday night.
The Golden Knights had won six of its nine playoff series in its team history going into Thursday night. Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena is one of the most exciting sports venues in all of professional sports. It’s been the best show in Las Vegas since the franchise’s first season.
Who knew Las Vegas was such a great sports town?

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