by Eric Uribe
Expect the home-finale against Fresno State on Saturday, Nov. 22 to be a frigid one. If you tack on the 7:30 p.m. kickoff and a 50 percent chance of rain, it will likely be Mackay Stadium’s coldest and ugliest game of the season.
If there is one Wolf Pack game to attend this season, it is this one. [Not so much because Nevada is in the thick of a Mountain West Conference race with a win almost punching them into the conference championship fray.] No, because this game is for the Wolf Pack’s seniors — one of its best classes in recent memory.
In all my years at the ‘Brush, I’ve always shied away from the corny support-your-school columns. However, senior night is different. Moreover, this senior class is different.
The 15-man senior class includes 10 starters and two all-time Wolf Pack greats. Atop the class stands quarterback Cody Fajardo. Just about everything that needs to be said about Fajardo has already been said. He is one of the most potent dual-threat signal callers in college football history, more-than-worthy heir to Colin Kaepernick and a second-to-none face for Nevada athletics the past three years.
However, if there is one thing I will remember Fajardo for most, it will be is his sheer genuineness. I’ve interviewed countless Wolf Pack athletes over the years, but few match Fajardo’s kindheartedness.
Then there is defensive end Brock Hekking. His mullet, camouflage golf cart and magnetic personality have thrust him into the spotlight of Total Frat Move and ESPN’s SportsNation, among others. Perhaps no player on campus is more recognizable than Hekking.
For all the attention he garners off of the field, Hekking gets as much on the field, drawing double, sometimes triple teams from opposing defenses. His presence opens up the field for other teammates.
Or how about linebacker Jon McNeal, a do-it-all team captain? The 6-foot-1, 230-pounder has been a force at linebacker — special teams, outside linebacker and sometimes, middle linebacker, too.
Then there is center Matt Galas, who played most of his junior year with a separated shoulder. The now-captain started the season on the watch list for the Rimington Trophy, given to the nation’s best center.
Unfortunately I do not have the space to talk about all 15 seniors. Nonetheless, there are gems everywhere. Whether, it is multi-year starters, a special teams’ superstar or a backup who played several series with a torn ACL and meniscus, each of the 15 players have left their dent in the program.
Historically, home game attendance and temperatures run parallel with the Wolf Pack, with both nosediving at the end of the year. Look no further than last year’s closer against BYU, which had an announced attendance at 21,540. I’ve never seen a sparser student section than that game, which said farewell to quality seniors like Joel Bitonio and Brandon Wimberly. I’ll cringe if that number is mirrored against Fresno State.
I don’t care what it takes to brave the bitter cold — extra pairs of gloves, jugs of hot chocolate, personal heaters — you can’t miss this one.
Do it for Fajardo. Do it for Hekking. Do it for McNeal. Do it for Galas. Do it for the seniors.
Eric Uribe can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @Uribe_Eric.