It is time for the Nevada offense to come alive.
Save the loss at Arizona, the Wolf Pack attack has been less then inspiring including an underwhelming performance in a 21-10 at San Jose State on Saturday.
Cody Fajardo and company must be at their peak this week when rival Boise State rolls into Reno. One of the biggest games of the season this early and a win gives the Pack a much needed boost in their chase for the Mountain West title.
But the offense must come alive. The defense has carried Nevada throughout including a gutty performance against the Spartans.
It was troubling watching Nevada struggle against such an inferior opponent especially coming off a bye week. Sure, smoke from the King Fire forced the Pack to practice indoors and in Davis, Calif., for one day.
Still, San Jose State isn’t close to being the same class as Boise State and never mind the Spartans actually threatening to win the game until Fajardo scored on a 2-yard run and Nigel Haikins sealing the Pack victory with a 27-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Nevada’s offense has steadily become less imaginative and effective. Fajardo had just 64 passing yards and the Pack only tallied 256 yards of total offense.
The Pack is tied for 45th in rushing defense (189.5 yards per game), 96th in passing (199.5 ypg), 84th in total offense (389 ypg) and tied for 82nd in scoring (25.3 points per game).
Despite the woeful offensive production, the defense has been lights out. The Wolf Pack held Washington State to 13 points, played tough at Arizona and was the lone bright spot against San Jose State.
The unit flies to the ball, comes up with big turnovers and stiffens when opponents enter Nevada territory.
The defense, no doubt, will be geared up for Boise State, who is coming off a 28-14 drubbing at Air Froce.
Nevada’s defense is 29th in scoring, allowing just 19.3 points per game. Only Arizona has hit the Pack for more than 20 points this season.
Although Nevada’s defense is 95th in yards per game and 115th against the pass, the bend-but-don’t-break unit does not allow its opponents to see the end zone often. In the end, points allowed is the only stat that matters to a defense.
Their counterparts, however, allow 100.2 rushing yards per game and 357 total yards. The Broncos allow 23.4 points per game and are solid on the defensive side.
Boise State’s offense, meanwhile, is a mess.
Their scoring average is 27 points per game and quarterback Grant Hedrick is an interception waiting to happen. He’s tossed nine of them so far including four in the loss to Air Force, which forced coach Bryan Harsin to put in backup Ryan Finley.
This quarterback conundrum could not come at a worse time for the Broncos. Harsin did say Monday he will start Hedrick, but expect a short leash.
There is much riding for both teams and their chase for a division title and appearance in the conference championship game for Hedrick to let Nevada pick off its way to victory.
Conversely, the Wolf Pack must regain its form, especially in the passing game. Nevada will run the ball to keep the Broncos honest, but coach Brian Polian must allow Fajardo to make plays with his arm.
If that happens, Nevada will be in prime position to win the West Division, and possibly, a Mountain West title.
Steve Puterski is the sports editor for the Lahontan Valley News and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.