This was the year Reed was supposed to take a step back.
In fairness, it would be hard to keep pace with last year’s team that took a 13-0 record into the state semifinals. The offense was one of the best, statistically speaking, in Nevada large school history.
The quarterback from that team? Gone. The lead running back? Gone. Two Division I linemen? Gone.
And yet, here are the Raiders.
The five-time defending 4A North champions sent a statement on Friday night, shutting previously undefeated Reno down in a 28-14 win.
Reed’s offense didn’t light up the scoreboard in the victory. That wasn’t surprising. Led by BYU commit Brandon Kaho, the Huskies boast one of the best defenses in Northern Nevada. It was the fourth straight year Reno held Reed below 30 points.
What was surprising, and perhaps scariest for the rest of the 4A North, is how dominant Reed (6-1, 2-0) was on the other side of the ball.
Some, myself included, have pointed out Reed’s defensive struggles this season. On Friday, Reed looked like a team that can win a sixth-straight regional title with either side of the ball.
The last thing an offense as explosive as Reed’s needs is help on the other side of the ball. After two straight stellar defensive outings (shut out at North Valleys two weeks ago), it appears that’s exactly what the offense is getting.
Reed has now won 22 consecutive games against 4A North competition and is three more from locking up the High Desert League No. 1 seed. The Raiders are yet to play McQueen, Hug and Spanish Springs.
Barring anything crazy, the Raiders will enter the postseason rested, undefeated in league play, and once again a decided favorite.
This was the year Reed was supposed to come back to the pack. Seven weeks into the season, the Raiders remain in a pack of their own.
Wolf Pack escapes Fresno
Nevada’s offense was moving the ball up and down the field for the first time in weeks early against Fresno on Saturday.
A perfectly executed two-minute drill at the end of the half gave the Pack a comfy 21-6 lead.
As it has been much of the season, the second half looked much different. The offense bogged down, the defense started getting slashed in the run game and the 15-point lead was trimmed to 27-22 as Fresno moved within four yards of taking the lead in the final minute.
Fresno opted to throw the ball four straight times from the 4. One was completed, but not the final toss. Ballgame.
It was late drama that could have been prevented. A missed 24-yard field goal and PAT left four points on the board. Nevada’s first fumble of the season led to Fresno points. Leaky run defense allowed the Bulldogs to dictate the tempo.
Now at 3-3, 1-1 in the Mountain West, Nevada still has the whole season in front of it. The Wolf Pack controls its destiny.
But this team is not good enough to get away with self-inflected wounds. The margin of error is too small.
The run defense is Nevada’s largest flaw. It’s too hard to win college football games when the other team controls the line of scrimmage.
It’s a hole that can’t be plugged overnight. Polian switched up the defensive line leading into Saturday’s game, but got the same results.
The run defense, and the rest of the team, will try to clean it up on Saturday night at San Jose State. The Spartans are struggling. They’re 1-5, 0-2 with losses at New Mexico (48-41) and at home last week to Hawaii (34-17).
It’s a game Nevada should win. However, the Pack is just 7-15 on the road under Polian. The margin for error will be even smaller as the pressure becomes greater.
Houston makes collegiate debut
Reed grad Parker Houston made his debut for San Diego State in Saturday’s 26-7 home win over UNLV.
San Diego St. is burning redshirt on Reed grad Parker Houston (TE). Houston is expected to see time immediately, starting tonight vs. UNLV.
— Nathan Shoup (@Trib_Shoup) October 9, 2016
Houston, a tight end, was redshirting this year, but the Aztecs chose to burn it. The third stringer got hurt and Houston beat out the previous backup.
He didn’t get on the stat sheet, but will attempt to snare his first collegiate reception on Friday at Fresno.
And by the way, Houston will return to Reno on Nov. 12 with the Aztecs.
Nathan can be reached via email at email@example.com. His weekly column, ‘Shoup Shots,’ was named the best column in the state of Nevada (community division) by the Nevada Press Association. It runs in the hard copy of the Sparks Tribune every Tuesday morning.