UNLV Running Rebels logo

The Raiders may have already played home games in Allegiant Stadium, starting with a victory on a Monday night against the Saints on September 21. But the Raiders have so far played without any fans in the stands. Allegiant Stadium opened its doors to the first fans this weekend when the Nevada Wolfpack came to town to play the UNLV Rebels football team.

Back in the summer, the Mountain West conference had announced the postponement of the football season until next spring. For a while, it seemed like UNLV would not be the team to open up Allegiant Stadium after all. However, after the NFL, SEC, and a couple other college football conferences began play in September with strict social distancing protocols in effect and a [thankfully] relatively low number of incidents, the Mountain West decided to reverse course and move play back up to the end of October. The Raiders may have played the first game there, but it was still UNLV who opened the stadium to fans.

Photo by: Isaac Brekken via Associated Press.
The Raiders played their first Las Vegas home game in an empty Allegiant Stadium.

Unfortunately, despite the new head coach and the new stadium, UNLV is still the same old Rebels. The team has been completely unable to produce offense in its first two games, gaining a measly total of 25 yards in the entire first half of the opening game against San Diego State, and finishing the game with only 6 points (due to a missed extra point), while also rotating between three different quarterbacks. Coach Marcus Arroyo seems to have settled on Max Gilliam as the starting quarterback going into the game against Nevada, and the offense performed better, putting up 348 total yards on offense and 19 points in a 37-19 loss.

Marcus Arroyo was the offensive coordinator for an explosive Oregon football team in 2019, so the hope was that he would bring that explosiveness to UNLV, allowing the team to keep up in offensive production and scoring with its high-powered Mountain West opponents. So far that has not panned out. The season is still young, and it's unclear if the disappointing start is due to Arroyo failing to live up to his promise, a lack of talent on the team, the disruptions of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic (and lack of training camp and other team activities), or some combination of the above. I'm not going to condemn Arroyo after two games, least of all in this miserably, topsy-turvy year of 2020.

Photo by: Rudy Garcia via Las Vegas Sun.
UNLV was the first team to host fans at Allegiant Stadium.

That being said, I was not impressed with Arroyo's play-calling in that San Diego State game. He repeatedly called screen passes to wide receivers, despite San Diego State being on top of those plays each and every time. Either San Diego State knew those plays were coming and specifically prepared for them, or UNLV's offense telegraphed them far too clearly for them to work. The fact that Arroyo kept calling them, and didn't have some counter play prepared in case they didn't work made me worried about how he's scheming this offense. With San Diego driving on those screens every time, I would have liked to have seen an early pump fake to the screen, followed by a deep shot down the field. This would either catch the defense overreacting to the screen, or to force the defense to have to play back a bit and give those screens a bit more room to breath. I don't recall seeing such a play call in that game.

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Monday, September 28, 2020 05:00 PM

Is Chicago's Trubisky experiment over?

in Sports | Chicago Bears by MegaBearsFan

Readers of my blog know that I was not a big fan of the Chicago Bears' decision to trade up in the 2017 draft to select Mitchel Trubisky. The decision seemed flat-out stupid considering how much money they had given Mike Glennon in the trade with the Buccaneers. Why spend so much money to trade for veteran QB, if you were planning to go all-in on a QB in the draft? It was especially non-sensical considering that Trubisky wasn't even the highest-rated passer in the draft.

This past offseason's decision to trade for Nick Foles initially excited me. That excitement turned to disappointment when head coach Matt Nagy announced that Trubisky would remain the starter. The move to pay for a high-profile QB in a trade, only to keep the under-performing incumbent as the starter wreaked of poor decision-making in the same way that the Glennon / Trubisky situation did 3 years ago.

Mitchel Trubisky has not been nearly as infuriatingly bad as Jay Cutler was.

It isn't like Trubisky is a horrible quarterback. He had a phenomenal 2018 season that lead to a Pro Bowl invitation. His 2019 season was a noticeable regression (possibly due to nagging injury), but it was never as bad as the worst Jay Cutler years. Remember that Cutler lead the NFL in interceptions multiple years during his tenure in Chicago that got three coaching staffs fired. Trubisky has not been that bad, and he is a big upgrade over Cutler.

But Foles seemed like an upgrade over Trubisky. Foles had, after all, lead the Eagles to the Super Bowl (as a backup to injured Carson Wentz). If the Bears made the trade for Foles, then I had to conclude that it meant they didn't have faith in Trubisky.

When Nagy announced that Trubisky had won the job in offseason competition, I expected that he must have looked damn good to have beat out Foles. In fact, Trubisky did look fantastic in the comeback win against the Lions in week 1. The offense then went on to struggle in week 2 against a bad Giants team, then appeared to falter again in the first half against the Falcons. Apparently, all it took was a single interception from Trubisky for the Nagy to decide to pull him out in favor of Foles.

I didn't get to watch the game because it wasn't televised in my region of the country. The highlights that I saw made it look like Trubisky was playing a good game up until that interception. The offense was moving the ball. They just weren't scoring points, and some of that is on the kicker for missing a field goal on the opening drive.

Trubisky was benched after botching the primary read on a dagger concept.

Even though the interception was a bad decision, there must've been more going on that wasn't in the highlights that I saw. I can't imagine that the one interception by itself was enough to replace the starter. Even though Trubisky ultimately is responsible for botching the primary read and throwing the drag route right into a flat zone defender who Trubisky is supposed to be keying off of (instead of the wide open deep in route), Jimmy Graham didn't help Mitch by running a lazy-looking route and carrying it right into the defender (as opposed to stopping and sitting in the hole of the zone). So this one wasn't all on Mitch.

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Earlier this week, both the Mountain West and MAC collegiate sports conferences announced that they were going to "indefinitely postpone" fall sports as a reaction to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. Both said that they are planning on rescheduling games for the spring if the pandemic has subsided. The Big Ten and PAC-12 followed up a day or two later by announcing that they will also cancel their fall sports season. The remaining power five conferences are currently planning on going through with their fall schedule.

The Big Ten specifically cited concerns over a condition called Myocarditis, which is a complication of the COVID-19 disease that leads to long-term or permanent heart problems. A number of players within the Big Ten have already been diagnosed with the condition following recoveries from COVID-19, and physicians are warning that the normal fall timeline would not give those players enough time to recover from the condition (assuming that they ever recover at all).

The cancellation of Mountain West football means that my alma mater, UNLV, won't be playing this year. 2020 was looking to be an especially exciting transitional year for the team, as they would be breaking in the fancy new Allegiant Stadium which was built for the Raiders' move to Las Vegas, and they would also be introducing a high profile new head coach in Marcus Arroyo. I was definitely looking forward to not having to sit out in the hot Las Vegas sun during those August, September, and October games.

I was looking forward to seeing Marcus Arroyo as the UNLV head coach.

That being said, I was also terrified of the idea of attending a sporting event during the midst of a pandemic. With the pandemic numbers in southern Nevada being as high as they are, my dad and I would probably have been forced to stay home for at least the first few games -- probably the whole season, since it doesn't look like the pandemic situation is going to improve at all. Even though I would certainly have had to chose to stay home in order to protect myself and my family, it was a decision that I really did not want to make. In that sense, I'm kind of relieved that the Mountain West conference let me off the hook by canceling the season.

Or at least, they delayed my decision. The cancellation is actually a "postponement". The league has said that they want to play the conference games in the fall. I assume the non-conference games would likely be cancelled altogether, unless the non-conference schools also decide to reschedule. But I'm not optimistic that the pandemic will be over in the spring. Instead, I suspect that we'll likely be on the tail end of a massive uptick in cases, as the normal fall and winter cold and flu season exacerbates the COVID-19 situation.

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NFL

March's announcement that the NFL had granted a license to 2K to make "non-simulation" NFL football games gave many in the football gaming community hopes that the monopoly that EA and Madden have enjoyed for so long would soon come to an end. Well, sadly, that won't be happening anywhere near as soon as we may have hoped -- if ever. Yesterday, EA and the NFL agreed to extend the "simulation football" exclusivity deal through 2026.

There was hope that the NFL was perhaps becoming unsatisfied with Madden's declining review scores and slumping sales, and that they were opening a door to grant a simulation license to 2k when the EA exclusivity deal expired in 2021. But that won't be happening now, unless EA does something egregious enough to warrant the NFL backing out of the contract or claiming that EA is in breach of contract. I wouldn't hold my breath for that though.

By the time this extended exclusivity contract expires (in 2026), EA will have enjoyed a lack of competition for 22 years, I will be older than 40, and an entire generation of adults (old enough to legally drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, and gamble) will have grown up without ever knowing an NFL video game other than Madden, because the last NFL-licensed simulation football video game was released to store shelves before they were born.

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This week, I came across a video from Fox Sports outlining some of the "innovative" new rules being employed in the XFL for its [second] inaugural season. The rules are intended to make the game more exciting and streamlined. Some of them sound like generally good ideas. Others seem like poorly thought-out attempts to make the offenses' jobs easier, at the expense of defense and special teams.

The XFL released a video detailing its new rules.

Overtime shootout sounds dumber than college overtime

I am not surprised that the XFL is experimenting with a new overtime design. I am, however, surprised that they managed to come up with an overtime that is somehow even more divorced from football than college's overtime rules. Now, I've made my distaste for college overtime clear in the past. In summary, college overtime changes the rules of the game such that the teams' relative strengths or weaknesses may shift dramatically, in such a way that the outcome of the game may not be representative of the game as a whole. For one thing, special teams is almost completely removed from the game.

The XFL is going even further. Overtime games will be decided by what is essentially a two-point conversion shoot-out. Basically, the teams will take turns trying two-point conversions until one team scores and the other doesn't.

Devin Hester return TD
Special teams stars like Devin Hester will be
completely irrelevant in XFL overtime.

So now, not only are kick and punt returns eliminated from the game in overtime, but the field goal kicker has to sit on the bench knowing that he can't contribute either. Does your team have an elite kicker? Too bad! He doesn't get to see the field. How about an explosive kick returner? He also has to sit on the bench and watch without being able to use his talents to help his team win the game.

Heck, unless your team specializes in converting short-yardage situations, your team is going to be handicapped. Have a trio of speedy receivers who stretch the field, and a QB with a rocket arm? Sorry, they only have about 12 yards to work with. Have a dominating pass rush that leaves rival QBs with little time to make a five or seven-step drop before being buried into the ground? Well, they probably won't have time to get to the QB, since the rules are basically mandating a three-step drop or less.

Put simply, this overtime is not football.

My other complaint with college rules has also been carried over to the XFL: games can't tie. The rapid nature of the shootout should hopefully mean that overtimes don't drag on for as long as college overtimes often do, and the scores won't be as wildly inflated. So those are improvements. But sometimes, a tie might be representative of a hard-fought game against two closely-matched opponents. But the XFL rules prohibit this.

No, I do not like these overtime rules at all.

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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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