With all the hype and hoopla surrounding Nevada’s 36-7 win over UC Davis at Chris Ault Field at Mackay Stadium, the Wolf Pack are still visibly a team in transition.
The score is rather pedestrian, considering Davis is a middle-of-the pack FCS squad (give credit to Pack coach Brian Polian for refusing to run it up), but what stood out was a defense still being gashed in the run game. The Aggies managed to run for 118 yards on 25 carries for a 4.7 average.
Nevada’s inability to stop the run was noticeable against No. 16 UCLA and at times against UC Davis. No. 10 Florida State is licking its chops.
Even the Aggies, with lesser talent, and focused on running straight at the Pack’s defense, was able to do so with ease. Nevada must find a way to at least slow down their opponents’ run game or another average season, or perhaps, losing season is in the cards.
On the schedule are Air Force, who almost never throws the ball, Boise State, Fresno State, San Jose State and a BYU team who just hung 550 rushing yards on Texas.
One issue is the inexperience of the defensive unit. Only two seniors return and one — lineman Jack Reynoso — has starting experience. Brock Hekking, a junior All-Mountain West preseason selection, can be neutralized by running away or double-teaming him.
The line is a work in progress and must gobble up blocks to allow the linebackers room to flow to the ball carrier. Basic stuff, but the lack of talent up front is noticeable.
As for Nevada’s run game, Don Jackson must stay healthy if the Pack are to sustain any consistency on offense. Kendall Brock is serviceable, but not an every down back or a game-changer.
Quarterback Cody Fajardo, an injury waiting to happen, would be better served to stay more in the pocket. The problem is, with the Pistol offense, it requires Fajardo to carry the ball and expose him to more punishment than he needs or can take.
The strength of the offense lays with the receiving corps. An experienced bunch led by Brandon Wimberly and Richy Turner, who had six catches for 136 yards and one touchdown against UC Davis, anchor the unit.
Also in the mix are Aaron Bradley and redshirt freshman Hasaan Henderson, a 6-foot-5, 230-pound rookie. Henderson was recruited out of Las Vegas High School as a quarterback but made the switch to receiver this season.
With his body and speed, he has an opportunity to become a big-play threat for the Pack. Very few, if any, Mountain West defensive backs can match his natural size, but learning the position’s nuansces will take Henderson to another level.
As for Saturday, it’s going to be a long day in Tallahassee, Fla., but the quest to once again become a conference power doesn’t happen overnight.
Steve Puterski is the sports editor for the Lahontan Valley News and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.