Hobbled Fajardo leading Pack football

RENO — Cody Fajardo is playing this season on just one good leg.

The Nevada Wolf Pack quarterback suffered a right knee injury in the second game of the season on Sept. 7 against UC Davis and won’t be fully recovered until next season, head coach Brian Polian said this week.

“When you suffer an injury like that, you are just not going to be the same guy,” Polian said. “It’s not his fault. In fact, he’s shown great toughness to be able to play as well as he has.”

Fajardo missed two games against Florida State and Hawaii immediately following the win over UC Davis and has played in the Wolf Pack’s last four games. The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder, though, has not shown the explosiveness and quickness he had running the ball and escaping the pass rush that he had before the injury.

In the last three games against San Diego State, Boise State and UNLV (all losses), Fajardo has run the ball 43 times for just 90 yards with no touchdowns and has been sacked nine times. This is the first time Fajardo has played three consecutive games without a rushing touchdown since his final three games of his freshman year in 2011.

“He’s healthy enough to play but that doesn’t mean he’s back to what he was before,” Polian said. “He won’t be completely healthy until after the season, after he’s had at least a month to rest.”

Fajardo, who has worn a bulky knee brace on his injured knee since returning to the field, has not had a rush of longer than 13 yards over the last three games. In the season opener at UCLA, before he injured his knee, he ran for 106 yards and two touchdowns and had three rushes (14, 19, and 27 yards) of longer than 13 yards.

FAJARDO FALLS TO .500: The 27-22 loss to UNLV last Saturday dropped Fajardo’s career record as a starter to just 13-13. He started his career by winning 10 of his first 14 starts but has gone just 3-9 over his last dozen starts.

Since Fajardo made his first career start in Week 5 against UNLV in 2011, the Wolf Pack actually has a better winning percentage (3-1, .750) without him as a starter than with him. Tyler Lantrip beat Idaho in 2011, Devin Combs beat UNLV in 2012 and Tyler Stewart beat Hawaii this year. Combs’ loss at Florida State this year when Fajardo was mending his injured knee is the only blemish on the record of Pack backup quarterbacks when starting for Fajardo.

Former Wolf Pack quarterback Colin Kaepernick also started out slowly as a starter. Kaepernick was just 11-13 over his first 24 starts. Kaepernick, though, won 21 of his final 24 starts to finish with a 32-16 career record as the Pack’s starting quarterback.

DIKE GETTING LONGER LOOK: Polian said this week that true freshman Kaodi Dike is going to see increased playing time moving forward at safety.

“We’re running with Kaodi Dike,” Polian said. “The thing about freshmen that you like is that they will get better,” Polian said. “If it’s a toss-up between a veteran and a freshman you always go with the freshman because it will pay off in the future.”

Dike, who is listed as a free safety, had three tackles in the loss to UNLV. He has five tackles this season in five games. The 18-year-old is from Mountain House, Calif.

Sophomore Bryson Keeton has been starting at free safety and has 32 tackles this year with one sack, an interception and three passes defensed. Bryan Lane, who started the year at linebacker, has been starting at strong safety. Lane, like Keeton, has 32 tackles, five passes defensed and an interception. Also in the mix at strong safety is junior Nigel Haikins, who has six tackles and an interception.

INJURY REPORT: Polian said that defensive tackle Jack Reynoso, wide receiver Richy Turner, defensive end Brock Hekking and center Matt Galas are all dealing with various nagging injuries this week.

“I can’t tell you if any of the four will play or not right now,” Polian said, “and we won’t really know until the end of the week.”

Polian said “it is doubtful that we will have all four” available against Fresno State on Saturday night.

BROCK RETURNING HOME: Wolf Pack Kendall Brock, who played at Clovis West High School near Fresno, is excited to play his first college game at Fresno State this weekend.

“It’s a big homecoming for me,” said Brock, who leads the Wolf Pack with 539 rushing yards and six touchdowns. “It’s the most excited I’ve been for a game in my three years here.”

Brock, a junior this year, said he grew up as “a big Bulldog fan.”

“We had season tickets,” Brock said. “The crowds there are intense. I used to be a part of the Red Wave. It’s loud and its brutal (on visiting players).”

The 5-9, 195-pound Brock said he no longer holds a grudge against Fresno State for not offering him a scholarship three years ago.

“I didn’t understand why they didn’t,” Brock said. “I was in their backyard and they didn’t want me. But that’s OK. I don’t want to be anywhere else but here now. Right now I’m just looking at this game as a great opportunity to play in front of family and friends.”

Brock, who rushed for 4,918 yards and 62 touchdowns in high school, spent the past two seasons as a backup wide receiver for the Wolf Pack.

“This (playing running back) just feels like what I was born to do,” Brock said. “God didn’t create me to stand in the slot and catch balls.”

Polian and his staff switched Brock to running back last spring.

“He’s been what we thought he’d be,” Polian said. “He’s a real reliable, tough guy. Kendall saved us (at running back). He’s really stepped in and done a solid job for us when we needed him.”

POLIAN FEELS FOR SENIORS: Polian, whose Wolf Pack is 3-5 overall and quickly slipping out of the Mountain West championship race at 2-3, said this week that he will always be indebted to this year’s seniors.

“This is my first senior class as a head coach and I will always remember them forever,” Polian said. “It’s because of those guys, guys like Joel Bitonio and Brandon Wimberly, that we will never go into any game and say, “This season is done. Let’s play the young guys and see what we have.’

“That’s not fair to the veterans. No matter what our record is we will go into every game the rest of the season and go in swinging and try to win every game we play. I owe that to these seniors.”


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