Polian, Pack look to fill cupboard

Steve Puterski

Steve Puterski

The dismal season is finally over.

After failing to qualify for a bowl game for the first time since 2004, Nevada football coach Brian Polian has his work cut out.

Defense has been the main source of headaches for Wolf Pack fans, as the team let another halftime lead slip away. The offense, meanwhile, came up short in the first half in a 28-23 loss to BYU on Saturday at Mackay Stadium.

The loss was a microcosm of the Pack’s season. Either the offense (usually) or defense would play a solid half and then crumble.

Second-half adjustments looked to be an oddity at many points during the season — one half of solid play followed by a trainwreck.

Polian has reiterated all season this team did not have the talent to win consistently. His thoughts are dead on, but there were games to be had. BYU for starters.

Not to mention, quarterback Cody Fajardo admitted he was not 100 percent since the season-opening game at UCLA. His bum knee killed his burst and altered the landscape of a once fearsome rushing attack.

The passing game was solid for the most part, but the pressure of having to score on nearly every possession due to a woeful defense took its toll.

As for the defense, not one starter in Saturday’s game was a senior. Littered with inexperience ­— and a shaky scheme in the Tampa 2 ­— the unit had little success.

Nevada ranked 117th in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) in total defense, allowing 505.3 yards per game, was 101st in scoring defense (34.4) and had the second-worst (122nd) rush defense, allowing 258.5 yards per game.

The good news, though, is there is nowhere but up for the defense.

Offensively, the Pack must rediscover their rushing attack, which ranked 56th with 179 yards per game.

Running backs Kendall Brock, Don Jackson and Chris Solomon return, but they did not provide a home-run threat. They must be more consistent and physical to take pressure off Fajardo.

On the bright side, Fajardo’s new safety blanket may come in the form of 6-foot-5, redshirt freshman Hassan Henderson. Henderson appears to be the next receiving star in the making as he showed signs of improvement throughout the year.

He is big, fast and has the skills to develop into the Pack’s top receiver, along with Richy Turner, next season.

Now, Polian and his staff are off on the recruiting trail aiming to land better talent. Spring practice must see rapid improvement for Nevada to contend for a Mountain West, or at least a winning record and bowl game.

Steve Puterski is the sports editor for the Lahontan Valley News and can be contacted at sputerski@lahontanvalleynews.com.


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