Photo courtesy of TylerBaker/DailyWildcat
Sophomore tight end Jarred Gipson catches a touchdown in the game against Arizona on Saturday September 13th. Gipson had a break out game catching two touchdowns.
Three weeks into the new season, Nevada has impressed. The Pack is 2-1 including a nationally televised victory over Washington State. With a break in the season, it’s time to evaluate the team and give out some grades.
With a great quarterback returning, most people figured this team would be fairly good on offense and they have not disappointed. The key to the Pack’s offense this season is adaptability.
Against Southern Utah the Pack put together a balanced attack including quarterback Cody Fajardo throwing for 303 yards and the team rushing for 255 yards and three touchdowns.
Against Washington State, the Cougars took away the passing game. The Wolf Pack responded by running the ball heavily.
Nevada rushed for 233 yards and three touchdowns while Fajardo only threw the ball 22 times for 110 yards. The Wolf Pack were able to
win this game 24-13
Last week against Arizona, the Wildcats shut down the run game, so the
Pack relied on the arm of Fajardo, and he delivered passing for 322 yards and three touchdowns.
This offense has shown that it is not a one-trick pony and has been able to run and pass the ball well this season. The only reason it did not receive an
A was the team’s sluggishness against Southern Utah.
Last season the Nevada defense would have gotten a D, so this
B- grade should be seen as positive. This team is 100 times better than last year’s squad.
In it’s season opener against Southern Utah they held the Thunderbirds to 13 points and with the exception of a 71 yard run the defense limited the success of the Thunderbirds’ offense.
They turned it on against Washington State, a game that I thought the defense would struggle in. Surprisingly the Pack only allowed this Cougar team, who in 2013 averaged 31 points a game, to score a measly 13. Including two goal line stops that would eventually end in field goals. The more impressive thing is that the young secondary only allowed Cougars quarterback Connor Halliday to throw for 389 yards. The week before Halliday threw for 532 yards against Rutgers. The defense also forced turnovers including picking off two of Halliday’s passes.
Unfortunately, last weekend’s performance against Arizona is where the Pack started to look a little like last year’s team, and earned them their B-. Arizona quarterback Anu Soloman threw for279 yards and three touchdowns. Arizona running back Nick Wilson also had a huge game rushing for 179 yards and two touchdowns. It wasn’t just the yards and touchdowns that the Pack gave up, it was the mental mistakes. During the fourth quarter, Arizona was leading 28-21, on third and 11 the Wolf Pack defensive put great pressure on Solomon and forced him to roll out and throw the ball out of bounds. Frustratingly, the Pack were called for defensive holding on the which gave Arizona an automatic first The Wildcats would go on to score ondrive. This mistake took the Wolf Pack out consideration for the win.
Nevada’s defense has been a revelation this season and if they can continue to get good performance out of the front four and the secondary improves they will keep Nevada competitive in most of the games to come.
Although head coach Brian Polian has improved greatly from last year he still has a lot of work to do.
Coach Polian’s play calling is a bit suspect at times, including running the ball on third and long situations, which he has done the last two games. Last week against Arizona he handled the goal line plays on the opening drive poorly. He called two straight run plays which resulted in no gain and then on third down he called a very low percentage pass play which was incomplete and resulted in the Pack settling for three points instead of seven. Coincidentally, seven points turned out to be the final margin of the game.
Polian will get better as a play caller with more experience, but right now he is just not getting the job done.