Monday, February 13, 2017

Farewell to 2016: Nevada Wolfpack

2016 was a season of recurrent dominance on one side (San Diego State), and a resurgence on the other (Wyoming). The strength of the MWC was once again on the Mountain Division side of the league, as both Boise State and Air Force finished with 10 wins after bowl season was over with, and New Mexico finished with 9 wins. Wyoming, finished with 8 after being one of the worst programs in America in recent seasons. The Cowboys made it to the MWC title game after holding off charges from both Boise State and New Mexico, and while the season could have finished better for the Cowboys, the surge in success in Laramie had to be recognized as a huge move forward for Craig Bohl and his Cowboy program. In the West, Hawaii showed signs of life under Nick Rolovich, but the rest of the division, not including San Diego State, tanked once again, that side of the league will have 3 new head coaches in 2017. Here is a look back at the season that was in 2016.

Nevada Wolfpack
5-7 (3-5)

2016 Schedule
Beat Cal Poly 30-27
Lost to Notre Dame 39-10
Beat Buffalo 38-14
Lost to Purdue 24-14
Lost to Hawaii 38-17
Beat Fresno State 27-22
Lost to San Jose State 14-10
Lost to Wyoming 42-34
Lost to New Mexico 35-26
Lost to San Diego State 46-16
Beat Utah State 38-37
Beat UNLV 45-10

MVP Offense: RB James Butler
While Nevada football was basically crumbling to the point that Brian Polian was moved out, at least James Butler kept on bringing some fire, as he rushed for 1336 yards on 260 carries. He scored 12 times, and ran for over 1000 yards more than the second leading rusher on the team. He averaged 5.14 yards per carry, and 111.33 yards per game, while averaging 21.67 carries. Butler saved his best game for last when he busted loose for 196 yards on 32 carries in the Fremont Cannon win over UNLV. 
MVP Defense: DL Malik Reed
DL Malki Reed was big for the Pack in 2016, finishing with 59 tackles on the season. He collected 9.5 TFLs, and led the team with 5 sacks. He also finished with 3 forced fumbles. 
Others of Note
QB Tyler Stewart was on his way to a decent season, but then was injured, missing the final 4 games of the season, and most of the Wyoming game as well. He passed for 1161 yards and 9 scores to just 3 INTs in 8 games, and had completed 63.2% of his passing attempts. Ty Gangi took over in what was an early audition for the 2017 job, but was not as effective. 
Wyatt Demps stood out in the passing game, as he led the team with 53 receptions for 686 yards and 9 scores. Butler added to his monster rushing totals with a receiving line of 37-381-3.
Alex Bertando led the team with 105 tackles, while Asauni Rufus finished with 95. 
Best Win: UNLV 45-10
When you finish with a losing record, you have to find the best wins where you can get them, and beating UNLV in any given year for Nevada is big. The Fremont Cannon headed back to Reno after a whopping 45-10 win for the Pack.  Worst Loss: San Jose State 14-10
Nevada should have been a dog against Purdue and Notre Dame, 2 terrible teams in 2016, so it is hard to find fault there. Where the problem lies is that Nevada could not score more than 10 points off of a San Jose State team that gave up 34.7 points per game. 
2017 Non Conference Schedule: 9/2 at Northwestern, 9/9 Toledo, 9/16 Idaho State, 9/23 at Washington State
Nevada could be in trouble against this schedule, as they should be dog going up against Northwestern, Toledo, and Washington State. I can see the only win coming against Idaho State in this very difficult early slate.

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