RENO — Nevada Wolf Pack quarterback Cody Fajardo has a favorite memory of Chris Ault that quickly comes to mind.
“I don’t want to throw him under the bus or anything,” Fajardo said with a smile this week. “But one time when we were watching film he fell asleep. I looked up and saw that he was sleeping. I said, ‘What should we do? What should we do? Should we wake him up?’”
The 66-year-old Ault will be honored Saturday night (6:05 p.m. kickoff) by naming the field in his honor when the Wolf Pack meets UC Davis at Mackay Stadium. Ault, now a consultant for the Kansas City Chiefs of the NFL, coached the Wolf Pack for 28 seasons (1976-1992, 1994-95, 2004-12) and won 233 games.
“It’s going to be a special night for him,” Fajardo said. “He’ll be on the sideline and I’m sure he’s going to want to coach the team and put his 2-cents in. It will be hard for him to hold back.”
Fajardo was the starting quarterback for 11 of Ault’s victories the past two seasons.
“He was tough on me,” Fajardo said. “There were times when you thought, ‘Why is he being so hard on me? Why is he doing that? But, looking back, I know why he did that. He definitely challenged me and as a freshman he really helped me grow up real fast.”
Ault was the Wolf Pack’s starting quarterback in the first football game played at the stadium, a 33-17 win over UC Santa Barbara on Oct. 1, 1966.
“Coach Ault was a tough guy to play for,” Pack center Matt Galas said. “He was real tough. He was brutal. But he was also honest. If he yelled at you, you really felt it. I can remember when I made some bad snaps he made me feel like I was three inches tall. But, at the same time, when he was happy for you, like after the Cal game last year, you also really felt it.”
WALK WITH THE PACK
The Wolf Pack will begin a new tradition before the game against UC Davis when the players will walk through the parking lot before the game. The stroll, which has been labeled the “Wolf Pack Walk,” will take place approximately two hours before every home game.
“We wanted to make the game day experience for our fans the best it could be,” head coach Brian Polian said. “We want to give our fans a chance to literally reach out and shake hands with our players and get to know them a little.”
Polian was part of coaching staffs at schools such as Notre Dame and Stanford that also featured a pre-game player parade through the parking lots. Players will stop and chat with fans, sign autographs and pose for pictures on the way to the stadium.
“I like it,” Galas said. “My brother played for Cal and I always enjoyed getting a chance to see him before the game.”
NEW DEFENSE, SAME RESULTS
The debut of the Wolf Pack’s defense under new coordinator Scottie Hazelton didn’t exactly go as planned in the 58-20 loss at UCLA last Saturday. In fact, it was historically bad.
The 58 points were the most the Pack has allowed since a 69-20 loss at Oregon in the 2011 season opener. The 647 total yards by UCLA are the most by a Wolf Pack opponent since Missouri had 651 in the third game in 2008.
UCLA (345 rushing, 302 passing) also became the first Wolf Pack opponent to rush for at least 300 yards and pass for at least 300 yards in the same game since San Jose State ran for 315 yards and passed for 534 in a 64-45 win over the Pack on Nov. 10, 2001.
“We just had a lot of mental errors,” linebacker Jordan Dobrich said. “It got to the point where it didn’t matter what play they ran. We were out of position, we missed tackles, we had mental breakdowns and had a lot of execution errors.”
Dobrich admitted that Hazelton’s Tampa 2 defense was exploited by UCLA last week. Dobrich, for example, is required to drop into pass coverage at times as the middle linebacker in the Tampa 2. That left the middle of the field wide open for UCLA to exploit.
“They did try to get me out of the box a lot,” Dobrich said. “I would drop into coverage and run to mid field and than I found myself running back to the box to try to make an open-field tackle. That’s what they (UCLA) like to do. They like to spread the field and it made it very challenging to cover the pass and also play the run.”
The Wolf Pack never really stopped UCLA’s offense. The Bruins had the ball for 13 possessions. They scored eight touchdowns, kicked one field goal, missed one field goal, fumbled the ball away once and saw two drives end because the clock ran out at the end of the half and at the end of the game.
“We have to be better on defense,” Polian said. “We didn’t even force them to punt once.”
PACK BACKS STRUGGLE
Wolf Pack running backs Don Jackson and Kendall Brock combined for just 67 yards on 24 carries, a 2.8 yards per carry average.
It was the first time a Wolf Pack running back failed to rush for at least 40 yards since Mike Ball led the running backs with 35 yards against Boise State on Oct. 1, 2011.
Part of the reason for the lack of production by Jackson and Brock is that they both had just 12 carries. The last time a Wolf Pack running back didn’t have as many as 13 carries was against Eastern Washington on Sept. 2, 2010. It has happened just three other times since the start of the 2007 season — against Nicholls State in 2007, against New Mexico in 2007 and against Grambling in 2008.
“That’s just how it is,” said Jackson, who had 35 yards on his 12 carries (Brock had 32 on his dozen tries). “We are sharing the carries. I’m fine if they give me the ball 12 times or if they give it to me 22 times. Whatever (offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich) calls, I’m fine with it. I just take it in stride.”
“Both guys are real capable,” Polian said. “Both will get carries. If they end up splitting the carries this year that is great because it means they both stayed healthy all year.”
JACKSON APOLOGIZES TO OFFENSIVE LINE
Jackson, who made his Wolf Pack debut against UCLA, took the time to talk to the offensive line during practice earlier this week.
“After we watched the film (on Sunday) you could see my body language wasn’t right,” Jackson said. “You could see I was frustrated and I know the offensive line saw that when they watched the film. I just wanted to make sure they knew it wasn’t anything personal against them. That was just me and my passion for the game. But I can’t let that show on the field like that. It’s like the coaches always say. You should never let your opponent see how you feel.”
The offensive line is fine with Jackson.
“He just let his passion take over a little bit,” Galas said. “He told us, ‘You guys are my boys. I know you are going to block for me.’ I love his passion. It fired me up. I want to see that from our running backs. Kendall is like a firecracker back there. I know both of those guys are going to run hard every play.”
Fajardo was impressed with Jackson.
“I remember on his first or second run he went in there and stiff-armed someone and I just thought, ‘OK, good. I like that.’ You could see that the stage wasn’t too big for him. He did a nice job.”
FAJARDO CALLS HIS OWN NUMBER OFTEN
Fajardo had almost as many carries (22) as Jackson and Brock combined against UCLA. The Wolf Pack quarterback ran well, gaining 106 yards.
“That’s the playmaker in Cody,” Polian said. “Sometimes even when the read (in the Pack’s option offense) tells you to give the ball up, he’s still going to keep it himself. We want him to make plays but we also don’t want him to take extra shots like that.”
Fajardo equaled his career high with 22 carries. He carried the ball 22 times in a game twice last year and once in 2011. He has carried the ball 20 or more times in a game six times now. Colin Kaepernick, for example, only carried the ball as many as 20 times (20 against Louisiana Tech in the final regular season game of his career in 2010) one time.
“It surprised me that UCLA didn’t try to take me out of the game more than they did,” Fajardo said. “I thought they would see that we had new running backs and that they would force me to hand the ball off more. But that’s just how the pistol offense works. Every time I crashed down, they would take out the back so I ended up keeping it a lot.”