Nevada Wolf Pack football: Huber shines in spring game
For the Nevada Appeal
RENO – Joe Huber just did what came naturally Saturday morning at Mackay Stadium.
“I just used my quickness,” the Nevada Wolf Pack wide receiver said with a smile. “It was just a little stutter and go.”
Huber, one of nine wide receivers on the Wolf Pack’s spring roster, turned in the highlight of Saturday’s scrimmage, hauling in a 65-yard touchdown strike from quarterback Tanner Roderick.
“It’s always fun to be that open,” said Huber, who beat cornerback Markus Smith down the right sideline on his touchdown. “After I caught it I just saw nothing but green.”
Huber, who played in just six games and did not catch a pass in his first two seasons in a Wolf Pack uniform, caught three passes for 72 yards in the scrimmage. His big play was one of just Pack touchdowns all day in the 102-play scrimmage. The other score was an 8-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Cody Fajardo to wide receiver Brandon Wimberly to cap off the first drive of the morning.
“I just love competing,” said Huber, a former quarterback for the Bishop Gorman High Gaels in Las Vegas. “That’s why I love spring ball, because of the competition.”
Huber almost saw nothing but green a second time on Saturday.
“You have no idea how badly I wanted that one,” said Huber, who nearly scored on another 65-yard touchdown down the right sideline after beating cornerback Bryson Keeton but the pass from quarterback Devin Combs was overthrown by about five yards. “I wanted it so badly I dove for it.”
The 5-foot-9, 185-pound Huber has caught head coach Chris Ault’s eye this spring.
“Joe’s doing OK,” Ault said. “He’s getting better all the time. He just needs to get a better feel for the system.”
The Pack’s offensive system didn’t produce many highlights during the two-hour scrimmage. The Wolf Pack running game failed to get into the end zone on 59 carries and gained 224 yards for a 3.8 yards-per-carry average.
The passing game was only slightly more productive as the three quarterbacks combined to complete 24-of-43 passes for 261 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Fajardo started off strong, completing his first eight passes. He ended up completing 20-of-31 passes for 184 yards and the touchdown to Wimberly but also stumbled down near the goal line a couple times.
“I’d say I was average to a little below average,” said Fajardo, who also ran the ball nine times for just 24 yards. “We struggled in the red zone and that is completely my fault. We got down there and didn’t produce points and that’s something that hurt us last season. I have to get better at that.”
Fajardo, rolling out on a first down play from the one-yard line, was picked off in the end zone by Thaddeus Brown on a pass intended for tight end Zach Sudfeld.
“I just looked up and saw the 6-foot-7 Sud but I threw it right to the defensive back,” said Fajardo who did complete his first eight passes. “I short-armed it a little.”
Fajardo also failed to punch the ball in the end zone on four plays starting from the 6-yard line late in the scrimmage. He tossed two incomplete passes and kept the ball himself twice for a net gain of two yards.
“We have a lot of things we have to work on,” Fajardo said.
Both backup quarterbacks (Devin Combs and Roderick) each completed 2-of-6 passes. Combs ran the ball four times for 29 yards and Roderick picked up seven yards on eight carries.
“I saw some good things and I saw some things that we have to work on,” Ault said.
Wimberly was a workhorse, catching eight passes for 72 yards. Sudfeld, who had two outstanding catches, finished with four receptions for 71 yards.
The running game produced just four carries of 10 yards or more. Kendall Brock, who led the team with 49 yards on 10 carries, had the run of the day, picking up 30 yards on a carry around the right side. Stefphon Jefferson gained 34 yards on seven carries and lost one fumble. Anthony Knight gained 24 yards on nine carries and also fumbled the ball away once.
“We were pretty average on offense,” Ault said. “We were not as crisp as we were earlier in the week at practice. Cody (Fajardo) was a little out of sorts after we brought him back in after we gave the other two quarterbacks (Combs and Roderick) some work.”
The defense, though, played well for the most part.
Defensive end Lenny Jones, a red-shirt freshman, was very active early in the scrimmage, stopping Fajardo for a 2-yard loss on the first series and holding Combs and Brock to a pair of 1-yard runs on the fifth series.
“He’s climbing the ladder, one rung at a time,” said Ault of the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Jones. “He just has to learn to play that way all the time.”
Defensive lineman Jordan Hanson stopped Knight for a 3-yard loss and linebacker Lorenzo Devers trapped Roderick for a 7-yard sack. Linebacker Albert Rosette knocked down a Fajardo pass at the line of scrimmage as did defensive end Jake Peppard. Defensive back Malik James recovered a fumble and Aaron Brown nearly had an interception.
“The defense had its moments,” Ault said. “We’re getting there (on defense). We’re making progress.”
The Wolf Pack will conduct its annual Silver and Blue Spring Game, which is open to the public, this Saturday at Mackay Stadium starting at 10 a.m.