On Nevada's rebuilt offense and Pack fan excitement: Five questions with Pistol Whipping the WAC

Nevada previews probably interest you guys far less than Nevada revenge does, so consider this the last mention of the Wolf Pack before I heroically embark on several passive-aggressive game week rants, ending in an inappropriately sophomoric game recap where I say things I regret. But for now, here's a Nevada interview.

Pack Backer at Nevada's Pistol Whipping the WAC blog was kind enough to answer some questions on the UNR football team and to refrain from mentioning last year's game between our two schools. He is a good friend of the blog ... for at least another three months anyway.

Pistol Whipping the WAC does not have a website logo. So I made this. 

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1. What is the current state of the Nevada fanbase coming off of the most successful season in school history but also losing so many key players? Excitement? Apathy? Keno withdrawal?

The excitement in the area is very much palpable. Without hyperbole, last season was the best thing to happen to the university since the basketball team's Sweet 16 run in 2004. Season ticket renewals are going extremely well, and the AD plans to distribute free tickets to the San Jose State game on September 17th to season ticket holders, so the chance to hit I-80 and take over the Bay Area again is also getting people fired up.

But with that said, many people still aren't sure what to expect out of the offense and are particularly disappointed they won't get to see the team play at home until October 8th. In short, there is definitely a buzz surrounding the team that wasn't there before, but it remains to be seen how many new ticket-holders that will translate to.

2. What are your concerns about the Nevada offense under Tyler Lantrip?

The million dollar question everyone will be asking!

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The bad news is that Lantrip doesn't pose the same big play threat that Kaep did -- few players ever have or ever will.

The good news is that he's more of a traditional pocket passer than Kaep was, and he'll have no shortage of talented receivers to throw to, even with last week's unfortunate news.

The biggest question regarding his execution of the offense will be whether he can do enough other things to keep opposing defenses honest. Chances are he won't take a zone read to his left or right and bolt 70 yards for a touchdown the way Kaep could, but he is still very mobile for his size and capable of busting out an occasional 10- or 15-yard run. Couple that with the question of who will start at running back behind him, and it's safe to say that the rushing production will be more modest than what we've become accustomed to. But with the surge in passing we anticipate, it will just be a different twist on what should still be a very productive offense overall.

3. What would be considered a disappointing 2011 season? What would be considered a successful season?

People will talk a lot about replacing all of the lost productivity from last year's team, and in a lot of cases those concerns will be justified. However, we still believe there's enough talent left on the roster -- particularly on defense -- to be in the mix for a WAC title. If a lot of things break their way - "a lot" being the key words - 11-2 with another bowl win is the best we can hope for.

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(Note: Pack Packer used the phrase "a lot" correctly, but it reminded me of this wonderful Alot creature made by Hyperbole and a Half. If you are fuzzy on how to use the phrase "a lot," let Hyperbole and a Half explain.)

I'd say the absolute worst-case scenario would be 7-6 with conference losses to Hawaii, one other team, and a bowl loss. If it were up to me, I would consider 10-3 or 9-4 to be successful seasons.

4. Best case scenario for Nevada's opening four-game road trip.

Well, technically the best-case scenario for any four-game road trip would be 4-0, right? As a fan, a part of me believes they can beat any team they play. But to be frank, the first four games are one of the most raw deals you will ever see, and none of us can legitimately expect them to win out. San Jose State will be the only game they'll be favored in of the four, and Texas Tech will be close (more on that game in the next section), so I'll say 2-2 with respectable showings in the Oregon and Boise State games.

5. What is the biggest game on the Nevada schedule?

You can say what you want about Nevada hoping to exact some revenge on Hawaii, and that will no doubt be a big game in its own right. But right now I'd say Texas Tech is looming the largest of the 12 games on the schedule. They traditionally play very well at home but are replacing their starting quarterback, running back, and top two receivers AND are breaking in a new 4-2-5 scheme for what was an awful pass defense last year. It's the first -- and arguably most important -- bellwether game on their schedule. Pulling out a win in Lubbock would be huge for the program and would bode very well for the rest of the year, whereas a loss has the potential to unravel things very quickly.

For more on the Nevada Wolf Pack, visit Pack Backer's Pistol Whipping blog where he is previewing opponents, writing about Bronco memories, and generally being pretty likable ... for a Nevada fan.

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