RENO — Brian Polian was pleased with his first scrimmage as the Nevada Wolf Pack’s head football coach.
“Today was truly the starting point, the jumping off point,” Polian said Saturday afternoon at Mackay Stadium after a 90-minute, 105-play scrimmage. “And if today is the basement, something to build off of, we did pretty good.”
There were few surprises, if any, as the Wolf Pack met on the field at Mackay Stadium in full view of the public for the first time since Polian took over the program in January. A crowd of about 500 fans was met with soothing music that blared through sideline speakers throughout the scrimmage and a Wolf Pack team that was trying to impress its new coaching staff.
“It is basically like a big job interview everyday,” smiled quarterback Cody Fajardo, who completed 16-of-25 passes for 195 yards. “Coach Polian has told us he hasn’t watched a lot of film of what we did last year so we’re just out here trying to impress the new coaches and show them what we can do and compete.”
The scrimmage, overall, was a bit sluggish with the offense simply going through the motions running its basic pistol playbook of short passes, quarterback runs around end and running backs pounding the ball up the middle.
“I was pleased with the execution,” said Polian who was non-committal in his assessment of what he saw. “There were good things on both sides of the ball. The quarterback played pretty well and we protected pretty well. On defense there really wasn’t a busted play where a guy was running uncovered. There were a lot of positives to build off of today.”
Fajardo tossed a 21-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Bradley on the first drive and backup quarterback Devin Combs found wide receiver Joe Huber for 36 yards and another touchdown late in the scrimmage. Other big plays through the air included a 23-yard pass from Combs to Huber, a 32-yarder from Tyler Stewart to Dominic Coulter, a 17-yard gain from Fajardo to Bradley and a 25-yarder from Fajardo to Brandon Wimberly.
On the ground the big gains belonged to running back Don Jackson (11 yards), running back Nate McLaurin (10 yards), Combs (10 yards twice), running back Chris Solomon (16 and 15 yards) and Stewart (10 and 17 yards). All quarterback runs, though, were whistled dead as soon as a defender came near them. Most drives also were stopped by the coaches as soon as the Pack got near the end zone. It helped save the defense the embarrassment of allowing touchdowns but frustrated the offense.
“I knew exactly how many plays I wanted to see in each series,” Polian said. “So when we reached that point we cut it off. I know the quarterbacks wanted to finish off their drives but that’s not what today was about.”
“It was a little frustrating for the offense to get down there and they’d blow the whistle and we had to start over,” Fajardo said. “But he (Polian) had a good meaning behind doing that. Today was just about getting our work in.”
The offense piled up 197 yards on the ground on 51 carries and 339 yards through the air for a total of 536 yards. Jackson, who ran with the first string, finished with 28 yards on eight carries. McLaurin had 39 yards on 10 carries and Solomon had 52 yards on 12 carries.
Combs was 6-of-11 for 81 yards through the air and Stewart was 5-of-8 for 63 yards. Wimberly caught seven passes for 90 yards to lead the receivers.