CFN Take: Nevada Rallies Past BYU
2014 Nevada Wolf Pack ...
Head Coach: Brian Polian
Oct. 18 Nevada 42, at BYU 35
2014 Schedule |
Aug. 30 Southern Utah W 28-19
Sep. 5 Washington St W 24-13
Sep. 13 at Arizona L 35-28
Sep. 20 OPEN DATE
Sep. 27 at San Jose St W 21-10
Oct. 4 Boise State L 51-46
Oct. 11 Colorado St L 31-24
Oct. 18 at BYU W 42-35
Oct. 25 at Hawaii
Nov. 1 San Diego State
Nov. 8 OPEN DATE
Nov. 15 at Air Force
Nov. 22 Fresno State
Nov. 29 at UNLV
And You Care Because … BYU appeared to be in control for most of the game, with Christian Stewart finding Mitch Mathews for two touchdowns and Paul Lasike scored twice on the way to a 28-13 lead in the first half. It was all Nevada in the second half with Cody Fajardo running for two scores and finding Richy Turner for an 18-yard touchdown on the way to 22 straight points. BYU couldn’t stop making mistakes, turning it over three times and not getting back into the end zone until a Stewart eight-yard touchdown pass to Keanu Nelson with just over two minutes to play to pull the Cougars within seven, but that was it, fumbling away the final drive after getting down to the Wolf Pack 39.
What Else? Turnovers; BYU 3 – Nevada 0
- BYU QB Christian Stewart completed 39-of-63 passes for 408 yards and four scores, and ran 16 times for 47 yards
- BYU WR Mitch Mathews caught 16 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns
- Nevada QB Cody Fajardo completed 26-of-40 passes for 285 yards and a score, and ran eight times for 47 yards and two touchdowns
Game Rating: B+
Oct. 11 Colorado State 31, at Nevada 24
And You Care Because … Garrett Grayson threw three touchdown passes including a 51-yarder to Rashard Higgins, and Dee Hart ran for a nine-yard touchdown on the way to a 31-3 Colorado State third quarter lead. Nevada made it interesting with 21 unanswered points with Cody Fajardo running for a score and throwing two touchdown passes with an 11-yarder to Richy Turner to make it a seven point game with just over six minutes to play. Fajardo would get one more chance, driving down to the Ram ten, but he was picked off by DeAndre Ellington with 46 seconds to play and CSU held on.
What Else? Colorado State WR Rashard Higgins caught ten passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns.
- Nevada QB Cody Fajardo completed 27-of-50 passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns with an interception, and ran 12 times for a team-leading 88 yards and a touchdown
- Colorado State QB Garrett Grayson completed 26-of-36 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns
- Nevada WR Jerico Richardson caught ten passes for 122 yards
Game Rating: B+
Oct. 4 at Boise State 51, Nevada 46
And You Care Because … In a crazy, high-scoring shootout, it was the Boise State defense that came up with one final stop to end it, stalling a Nevada comeback. The Wolf Pack started out the fourth with a pick six from Ian Seau to pull within eight, but Boise State pulled away with Jay Ajayi’s third rushing touchdown of the day from two yards out. Nevada got a 12-yard Jarred Gipson touchdown catch, and a 45-yard Brent Zuzo field goal to pull within six, but that was it as the last drive stalled. Nevada QB Cody Fajardo was picked off four times, with one brought back for a score by Tyler Gray, but he ran for two touchdowns including dashes from 13 and 56 yards out in a nip-and-tuck battle. Boise State was down five in the first half, but went on a 28-7 scoring run helped by a two-yard Grant Hedrick run and Ajayi scores from one and 26 yards away going into the fourth.
What Else? Boise State RB Jay Ajayi ran 27 times for 152 yards and three touchdowns, and caught three passes for 18 yards
- Nevada QB Cody Fajardo completed 23-of-43 passes for 306 yards and three scores with four interceptions, and ran 12 times for a team-high 71 yards and two touchdowns
- Turnovers: Nevada 4 – Boise State 3
- The two teams combined to convert 17-of-29 third down chances
Game Rating: A-
Sept. 27 Nevada 21, San Jose State 10
And You Care Because … After sputtering all game long, Nevada rallied in the fourth quarter with 14 unanswered points on a two-yard Cody Fajardo touchdown run and a 27-yard interception return for a score from Nigel Haikins. Fajardo started out the scoring on a 14-yard run in the second quarter, but San Jose State got a 32-yard Austin Lopez field goal at the end of the second quarter and took the lead in the third on a 24-yard Tim Crawley run.
What Else? Nevada QB Cody Fajardo completed 10-of-18 passes for 64 yards and ran 13 times for 64 yards and two scores
- San Jose State QB Joe Gray completed 32-of-46 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns
- Nevada was 0-for-9 on third down conversions
- Total yards: San Jose State 446 – Nevada 256
Game Rating: C+
Sept. 13 at Arizona 35, Nevada 28
And You Care Because … In a nip-and-tuck game, Anu Solomon threw three touchdown passes, with two in the second half to Cayleb Jones, and Nick Wilson ran for two touchdowns as Arizona got up 35-21 and held on. Nevada got three Cody Fajardo touchdown passes including a six-yarder to Jarred Gispson with six minutes to play to pull within seven, but failed on its final drive. Wilson ran for ran for scores from two and 28 yards out on the way to a 21-6 lead, but Fajardo went to work finding Gipson from seven yards out and Hasaan Henderson on a six-yarder to tie it at 21, but Solomon’s two touchdown passes for Jones put Arizona in control.
What Else? Arizona QB Anu Solomon completed 22-of-26 passes for 278 yards and three touchdowns with a pick, and he ran seven times for 60 yards
- Nevada QB Cody Fajardo completed 29-of-39 passes for 321 yards and three touchdowns
- Arizona RB Nick Wilson ran 29 times for 171 yards and two scores.
- The two teams combined to convert 13-of-25 third down chances.
Game Rating: B
Sept. 5 at Nevada, 24, Washington State 13
And You Care Because … Don Jackson ran for two short scores, with the first one set up by a 45-yard interception return by Kendall Jackson, and James Butler added a rushing score as Nevada got by the high-powered Cougars. Wazzu was heled to just 13 points and one touchdown on a 13-yard Vince Mayle catch. The Wolf Pack never trailed, getting up 14-0 and breaking away from a 14-10 lead in the fourth quarter, put away by a 40-yard Brent Zuzo field goal.
What Else? Highlighted by an impressive 55-yard dash, Nevada’s Cody Fajardo led the way with 100 yards on 16 carries, and completed 12-of-21 passes for 110 yards.
- Washington State’s Connor Halliday completed 38-of-57 passes for 389 yards and a touchdown with two sacks.
- How did Nevada keep the Cougar offense under wraps? Pass rush. Nevada got to Halliday for four sacks and came up with constant pressure behind the line.
- Missed field goals were a big problem for the Cougars. Erik Powell hit a 25-yarder, but missed third quarter shots from 37 and 38 yards away. If he hits those, Wazzu has the lead.
Game Rating: C
Aug. 30 at Nevada 28, Southern Utah 19
And You Care Because … Nevada struggled a bit on the way to a 28-6 lead in the fourth quarter James Butler, Don Jackson and Patrick Clifford each running for short scores, and Cody Fajardo put it away with an 11-yard touchdown run in the fourth. However, Southern Utah wouldn’t go away with a 71-yard touchdown run from Raysean Pringle and a 39-yard touchdown catch from Chris Robinson, but it was an 85-yard pick six from Miles Killebrew that made it close late. Even so, Nevada hung on to the ball for close to 41 minutes with Fajardo completing 30-of-41 passes for 30 3 yards and a touchdown to go along with 68 yards on the ground. Don Jackson ran for 110 yards with a score.
Game Rating: C+
There was bound to be a reboot and a grace period, but 2014 needs to be it.
Defense might have been optional at times under Chris Ault, but his teams were always players in conference seasons and went to bowl games on a regular basis. 2004 was the last time the program suffered a losing season without going to a bowl game – the Wolf Pack went 6-7 in 2007 after getting shut out by New Mexico in the New Mexico Bowl – making the 4-8 first season under Brian Polian all the more alarming.
To be fair, there were a ton of injuries to deal with offensively, and it’s not like there were any cheap losses with all eight defeats coming to teams that went bowling including Florida State, UCLA, Fresno State and BYU, but Nevada is supposed to be at the point where it’s dominating the UNLVs and Colorado States of the world, not losing to them.
Fortunately, there’s no Florida State on the slate this year and it shouldn’t be too hard to be two wins better to at least get back to 6-6, but again, that’s not where Nevada football is supposed to be.
As the Colin Kaepernick-led 13-1 campaign of 2010 showed, the program can be really good, really strong, and be one of the true contenders for the conference championship on a regular basis. But first, Polian has to find a defense that can stop a decent offense after finishing second-to-last in the nation against the run, doing nothing against the pass, and allowing 505 yards of total offense and over 34 points per game.
That’s not totally unusual for the program – the 2012 team didn’t play any D and there were big problems in 2007 and 2008 – but the offense usually made up for the problems by running wild in the funky Pistol attack that everyone seems to be using some form of now. This season, expect an improvement on both sides of the ball.
The coaching staff has its first season in the post-Ault era under its belt, and there’s more depth and better options now then there were throughout last year. There should be a better rotation on the defensive front, the offensive backfield is loaded with weapons, and the West division of the Mountain West should be a bit more manageable with Fresno State likely to take a step back and San Diego State, San Jose State and UNLV all beatable.
The Mountain West got a year off from the Wolf Pack. It shouldn’t get the same sort of a break this season.
What to watch for on offense:
The running backs should do more and Cody Fajardo should run a little bit less. The Wolf Pack quarterback is tough, dangerous, and never afraid of contact or a tough play, but he was dinged up a bit too much throughout last year. He fought through a slew of bumps and bruises, but that’s the nature of playing quarterback for Nevada. This year, though, there’s no reason to make him a primary weapon for the ground attack early in the season with veteran backs Kendall Brock and Don Jackson to work with. The Pistol offense should provide more open spaces to work through and areas for the speed and quickness of Brock and Jackson to shine through. Fajardo will have his moments when he takes over on the ground, but he’s too good a passer and player not to have at close to 100% late in the year.
What to watch for on defense:
A big improvement against the run. There will be some big plays allowed now and then by the 4-3, but this is a stronger, more experienced group that should be far more cohesive. Going against a banged up offensive line this spring helped the cause, but the front four was far tougher when the Wolf Pack offense tried to power it and the tackling was better. The problem is that the D will almost certainly be inconsistent – but it shouldn’t be as miserable from game to game as it was last year. At the very least, there shouldn’t be so many manageable second and third down plays for opposing offenses. The Pack D knows what it’s doing, and now it’s a question of execution.
The team will be far better if …
the defense can get off the field. This is a problem for most Mountain West teams, but it was a particular issue for a Wolf Pack D that didn’t have many excuses. The offense did its job in terms of grinding out the clock – Nevada was 14th in the nation in time of possession and was able to keep things moving – but time and time again there weren’t enough key stops. Starting off with a rough go against UCLA, who converted 9-of-12 chances, Nevada allowed the chains to move 50% of the time or more five times and finished the year allowing teams to convert close to 48% of their tries. It starts on first downs with a front seven that can’t get gouged so easily, and that might change early on.
The big tests come early with measurement-stick games against Washington State at home and Arizona on the road, and right after kicks off Mountain West play with a showdown at San Jose State and with back-to-back home battles against Boise State and Colorado State. Throw in a road game at BYU, and it’s a busy first half of the season before making the long trip to Hawaii as part of a run of three road games in four dates. And that’s the problem – the second half is a wee bit easier, but four of the final six games are away from Reno, including the regular season finale at UNLV.
Best offensive player:
Senior QB Cody Fajardo. The season hinges on his health. There might be good skill players, the defense has to improve, and the backfield is full of solid running back options, but as long as No. 17 is under center, the Wolf Pack should be rolling. He had to bomb away in keep-up mode throughout last year, but he’s smart and savvy with the ability to manage the game as well as come up with the spectacular. This is his team and his season, and if he comes up with a Mountain West Player of the Year-like performance, he might carry his team into the title game.
Best defensive player:
Senior DE Brock Hekking. If you’re going to have a top-shelf, Brian Bosworth-like blond mullet, your game had better rock. One of the nation’s best pure pass rushers with 17 sacks over the last two seasons, he’s a quick-off-the-ball blur when he gets a shot at a quarterback, and with the fire and motor to always keep working, he’s a regular in the backfield against the run, too. He might not be all that huge at a thin 6-4 and 255 pounds, but he plays tough and doesn’t stay blocked for long. For a defense that needs to make a massive improvement, it all works around him.
Key player to a successful season: Senior NT Jordan Hanson and junior DT Rykeem Yates. The defense that gave up 259 rushing yards per game, 6.57 yards per carry and 34 touchdowns has to be night-and-day better, and it starts with the two tackles. The linebackers are solid, and the ends should be fantastic. Now the interior of the defense has to do its job against the teams that like to power the ball up the gut a bit. Yates is a strong interior pass rusher and a possible all-star if he can hold up better against the run, while the 6-2, 280-pound Hanson needs to be a rock.
The season will be a success if … the Wolf Pack win the West. Yes, it really is possible for this team to go from 4-8 to the Mountain West title with all the skill parts there on offense and a defense that can’t be any worse. The schedule is a wee bit daunting, but with Boise State, Colorado State, San Diego State and Fresno State at home, if Nevada can own Reno, it should be good enough to handle the not-that-bad conference road slate.
Oct. 4 vs. Boise State. As long as everyone can stay healthy, the offense should have the punch and the fight to give Boise State a battle in what might be a preview of the Mountain West title. More than anything else, and more than anything that could be gained with a win over Washington State or Arizona, the Wolf Pack have to come up with a defining victory. Lose this, and then there’s no margin for error with San Diego State, Colorado State and Fresno State still to deal with.
2013 Fun Stats:
- Average Yards Per Carry: Opponents 6.6 – Nevada 3.8
- Second Half Scoring: Opponents 245 – Nevada 157
- Time of Possession: Nevada 32:25 – Opponents 27:35
- 2014 Nevada Preview - What You
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