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In a year where UNLV was supposed to contend for a bowl game and UNR was going to continue rebuilding, the scripts have been flipped.
The Wolfpack have won their last two games and are one game away from being bowl eligible.
The Rebels, meanwhile, have lost six in a row and won't make the postseason.
Jay Norvell was 3-9 last year -- that was his first year on the job. He's now close to making a bowl game. What has he done right?
"It's too early to say that it's been recruiting only in his second year. So, to me, it has to be the coaching.
The program -- at the time he took it over -- clearly was in bad shape. But now to have them on the precipice of going to a bowl game, I think is a tremendous job out of him."
Moss pointed to the Wolfpack’s games against Hawaii and San Diego State as examples of how good the team is.
Do you think that it might worry some of the Wolfpack faithful that he's doing so well? Because if he's doing well with this team, they might fear some bigger school that has a better ability to recruit poaching him.
"I would say [it's] a little bit too early in that. A couple things here: First, if [basketball coach] Eric Musselman is still a coach at Nevada and the job that he has done up there has been nothing short of sensational, I would say you're not quite [there] yet with Norvell.
On the flipside, if that is actually the case, in maybe two years, where other schools are knocking on his door? Well, I would think Nevada fans would sign up for that, because that means he did he did such a great job that he returned the program essentially to the level where it was always under [former Nevada football coach] Chris Ault: an annual bowl team winning eight, nine, 10 games. It would be in great shape at that point.
And then all they would have to do was not screw it up, and get the guy to replace him that could come in and keep it afloat."
In Las Vegas, UNLV is continuing to flounder. At what point did they just write the season off?
"If I'm Tony Sanchez at this point, I would just coach trying to have fun. I would do a bunch of trick plays.
This team has been an utter failure yet again and now there's been a lot of talk -- I know in the local media -- about it's time to finally let go of Tony Sanchez. At this point, just go and try to have some fun. I mean, they are miserable. They've lost six straight games. Let's be honest here. They're going to get blown out at San Diego State. In theory, they should anyway."
Moss said in the battle for the Fremont Cannon, expect the Rebels be blown out by the Wolfpack. He said the team is probably going to go 2 and 10 for the season with little or no excitement going into next year, which will be year five for Coach Sanchez.
So, is Sanchez gone?
"I don't think so. And the reason why is -- there's a lot to this, and what ties in here is the Fertitta money that was part of the deal when he took a job from Bishop Gorman. [...] There's another thing too. Who wants the job? Who are you going to get at UNLV? They paid him $500,000 to come here from a high school team. This is a great city and a lot of people want [to move here] but they don't exactly have the funds to do it. So, I don't think they have any great coaches lined up to want to want this job anyway. So, I would say just bring it back.
The Wolfpack had a good season last year in basketball -- they made it to the Sweet 16. The AP poll says they are the seventh best team in the country -- do you buy that?
"Absolutely. I think they could actually be higher than that. I love this team. It would have to be a total flop if they don't at least repeat last year's success.
This team is so good with everybody back. [Eric Musselman] is head coach there. He's done a great job and I love him as a coach. The recruiting class is also outstanding. This league might be a two-bid league, maybe with maybe San Diego State getting that second bid. So, they should be able to dominate the Mountain West."
On the other hand, Rebel basketball improved last season under Marvin Menzies 20 and 13 overall, but a losing record in the Mountain West -- 8 and 10. For Menzies, what would a successful season look like?
"I don't think any realistic fan even has tournament aspirations going into this season. I don't think they're going to be going to the Thomas and Mack this year saying, 'All right I can't wait to March because we're going to make it to the field of 68 again.'
I think the media poll had them sixth overall -- Nevada, number one, followed by the Aztecs, then New Mexico, Boise and Fresno. If they would finish in the top three, that would be a surprising enough season to where people would have to be not only shocked, but they would have to give him a standing ovation. They're not close to being a national player by any stretch right now."
Let's talk about the Golden Knights. Eric Haula got hurt in Tuesday night's game against the Maple Leafs. What impact does that have on the team going forward?
"It looks like he's going to miss back to back games this weekend on Saturday and Sunday to complete their road trip.
In theory, he's going be able to return next week when they come back and play the Ducks. So, it's not good.
I mean, you can survive like in any sport for the most part when one player goes down -- unless it's like a quarterback in football. But when you have cluster injuries, and a suspension in this case at the same exact time, that's when a team can really be affected by it."
Are the Knights missing something from last season?
"What happened with this team last year, it seriously just destroyed any realistic expectations for anybody to have with this team. That should never have ever happened -- ever. I don't care what sport you're talking about. But to make a run like that in year one and you win Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on your home ice? I mean that's just completely ridiculous. So, now everybody is going to be saying playoffs or bust and that's again not logical to think like that.
If you wipe away what happened last year and that never would have happened, you would be looking at the standings right now you would say, 'Okay, you know what. They're six points, I believe out, of a playoff spot right now. They're lingering around, you know, once they get right and everybody comes back. They can maybe make the playoffs.'
So, I just I think it's a matter of expectations. By the way, the Pacific Division really improved in the off-season and these teams are better than last year -- and they're beating each other up."
Moss also said there really was something to the Vegas Flu last year, where teams would come to the city and enjoy all it has to offer instead of getting ready to play games. Now, those teams are putting business before pleasure.
Another team that's not doing so hot right now in football is the soon-to-be Las Vegas Raiders, of course still in Oakland. We talk about tanking in the NBA -- this idea that you have a really bad team in order to have a chance at a high draft pick. Are the Raiders almost trying to do that in the NFL?
"If you would have asked me last week before they kicked off against San Francisco, I would have said, 'Off the field, yes, because they traded Amari Cooper and got a first round pick, and they traded Khalil Mack before the season started, and they got a bunch of picks for that,' but I would have said, 'On the field, no, I haven't seen it yet.'
Because the Colts game was the last image, I had it in my head and they had a lead in the fourth quarter. The offense actually looked pretty good and they had a chance to win that game […] But, I watched the entire game. They never quit. They never gave up had a chance to win. Then last week happened in San Francisco, with Nicky Mullins as the quarterback, and you lose 34 to 3.
There's little doubt in my mind what I saw was a team that was giving up on their head coach. Yes -- off the field. Clearly, they've been tanking on the field. It looks like the players finally gave up on Gruden halfway through the season, which is absolutely terrible."
People laughed when Jon Gruden was given that 10-year, $100 million contract. Have the laughs turned to, you know, shouts of anger and people with pitchforks trying desperately to get him out of there?
"I think of the diehard Las Vegas Raider fans that can wait for the team to get here. They are going be stubborn on this […] they are going to go to their graves thinking Jon Gruden is the guy.
And again, he hasn't coached in 10 years. The team, just by design, with their scheme in the pass plays -- is it on Gruden or is it on Derek Carr? This offense and the play calls and how they operate in the execution -- it is horrendous, and there's nothing fun to watch about this team basically for the most part.
So I thought, $100 million for that guy was laughable and I don't know -- I think realistic people are saying, 'Yeah, they made a mistake.' They called that before the season started -- now they're just like, 'Well, we told you so much.'"
Mitch Moss, VSIN
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