By Chris Boline
Nevada’s first season under Brian Polian came to a close on Saturday after the Pack lost 28-23 to BYU, and the head coach had his first chance to reflect on the season that evening.
“Clearly, the first thing that sticks out is: four and eight is not good enough and we know that,” Polian said at the season wrap-up press conference. “It’s not up to the standard of excellence here at Nevada and in my mind, there are a couple of contributing factors as to why we were four and eight, but those are excuses and those don’t matter.”
Indeed, the Wolf Pack’s first year under head coach Brian Polian was an unforgettable one, albeit for the wrong reasons. Nevada lost to rival UNLV for the first time since 2004, did not secure a bowl bid for the first time since that same year and ultimately ended with its weakest record since Chris Tormey was head coach (Nevada finished 3-8 in 2001 under Tormey). However, behind a team that held the one of the country’s worst defenses (34.4 points allowed and allowed over 258.5 rushing yards per game) the Wolf Pack was still able to hang with some of the country’s best this season. Nonetheless, this did not reflect in the final standings for the Mountain West, but is something that coach Polian and his staff will have to address in the off-season.
Even though the defense did play very poorly this year and was sporadic at times (the Pack lost three games after leading after halftime), the offensive side of the ball did produce some favorable results. Nonetheless, according to the head coach himself and his staff, the team will still stick to the values of the defense, but will just “do them better.” Nevada’s offense was able to hang up points consistently to the tune of nearly 27 per game, but did have sporadic success with a usually stable running game. However, the results have not deterred coach Polian enough to make a switch next season.
“We are going to keep the pistol,” Polian said. “We are going to keep the core principles of the run game because I believe in them and so does our offensive staff. The lack of production this year in the run game, I don’t believe is in the system, it’s in things we can fix”
According to Polian, he was impressed by the development of the wide receivers this season and believes that Nevada will have a formidable trio next year in juniors Richy Turners and Aaron Bradley and six-foot-five freshman Hassan Henderson, despite losing senior Brandon Wimberly. Polian also addressed the depth of the offensive line and that his staff would possibly explore the junior college route to garner more college-ready bodies in preparation for next year.
The departing Wimberly, looked back on what it feels like to be in the locker room with his teammates for the final time.
“I actually do (wish I had one more opportunity), but after losing and being in the locker room with those guys that last time, it sucks,” Wimberly said. “I wish I had another year, but I also wish they paid me for another year, but that’s illegal according to the NCAA.”
The head coach also addressed the situation regarding quarterback Cody Fajardo’s role on the team next year.
“In order for us to take a big step forward, Cody has to make this his team,” Polian said. “He is going to need to lead us the way a fourth-year starting quarterback is supposed to lead his team, the same way I saw Andrew Luck lead (at Stanford).”
After the game against BYU, Fajardo was asked on what his plans for the year moving ahead into next year.
“You know it’s at a rock and hard place, where you want to go back and work, but you have to let your body rest,” Fajardo said. “It’s kind of a weird feeling being a senior, but I want to have no regrets and make the most of it.”
Chris Boline can be reached at email@example.com.