Fajardo is the leader of the Pack | NevadaAppeal.com
YOUR AD HERE »

Fajardo is the leader of the Pack

Sports fodder for a Friday morning … Cody Fajardo is putting this Nevada Wolf Pack football team on his back and dragging it into Mountain West championship contention. Fajardo led the Wolf Pack to a 42-35 comeback victory at BYU last Saturday for the program’s most impressive road victory since Fajardo led them on a brilliant fourth quarter drive to win at Cal on Sept. 1, 2012. The Pack has played with an all-too-familiar script the last three weeks. The team digs a ridiculous first-half hole and then Fajardo comes out of the halftime locker room with his hair on fire and plays like the best quarterback in the country. Remember all those concerns that Fajardo was too nice to be a leader? Well, Fajardo has led the Pack to 75 points in the second half the last three weeks combined against Boise State, Colorado State and BYU, arguably the three best teams the Pack will face all season. If Fajardo stays healthy the rest of the year, the Pack will be in the Mountain West title game on Dec. 6.

•••

Fajardo, right now, is the best player in the Mountain West. He leads the conference in total offense at 305.4 yards a game. He’s third in passing at 240.9 yards a game and ninth in rushing at 64.6 a game. He’s simply the single greatest talent in the league. Fajardo is the smartest player in the league, arguably the best athlete and he’s as experienced as any quarterback in the country. He’s also the coolest and calmest guy in the stadium in the fourth quarter when his team needs him most. Fajardo, right now, is combining Colin Kaepernick’s explosiveness and Chris Vargas’ coolness under fire and ability to pull off miracles. Enjoy the rest of this season, Pack fans.

•••

This year’s World Series is going to come down to the bullpens and, well, you have to give the Kansas City Royals the edge. The Royals’ bullpen of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland looks like Mariano Rivera, Dennis Eckersley and Rich Gossage in their primes right now. But don’t underestimate the San Francisco Giants’ bullpen. As long as Hunter Strickland and Jean Machi stay off the mound, the Giants bullpen can protect leads. Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla have allowed just one earned run over 22 innings this postseason. But if the Giants are going to win this World Series they better win the first six innings. The Royals own the last three innings.

•••

Is this the worst two teams ever to meet in a World Series? You can certainly make that argument. Neither team won as many as 90 games this season. Neither team finished first in their division in the regular season. There’s only one pitcher in this World Series who won as many as 15 games (Madison Bumgarner, 18). The Giants, in fact, have three starters with losing records (Ryan Vogelsong, Tim Hudson, Jake Peavy). Bumgarner is the only pitcher in this World Series who fanned more than 200 hitters this year. Just one hitter in this Series hit more than 20 homers in the regular season (Buster Posey, 22) and just one (Posey, 89) drove in as many as 75 runs. This is a World Series filled with the likes of Omar Infante, Joe Panik, Travis Ishikawa, Alcides Escobar, Norichika Aoki. Panik and Ishikawa, in fact, played at Aces Ballpark this year for the Fresno Giants. College basketball prides itself on its Cinderella stories but it never really delivers in the end. Baseball has delivered this postseason.

•••

When the San Francisco 49ers met the Denver Broncos last Sunday the best former Nevada Wolf Pack player on the field wasn’t 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. It was Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall. Marshall, a Wolf Pack teammate of Kaepernick’s from 2008-10, led the Broncos with eight tackles against the 49ers and he nearly picked off a Kaepernick pass. The Cimarron-Memorial High product out of Las Vegas is starting at outside linebacker after bouncing around the NFL with Jacksonville and Denver the last two years. The undersized (6-foot-1, 250 pounds) Marshall never really got the credit he deserved at Nevada playing with more celebrated defensive teammates like Dontay Moch, James-Michael Johnson, Duke Williams and even Brett Roy. But he was always the heart and soul of those underrated Pack defenses and now he has become the best NFL player out of that group.

•••

Kaepernick, it seems, is not progressing as a NFL quarterback this year. Is he trying too much to justify his big contract? Or has he hit a wall in his development? We’ll see. But he was clearly no match for Peyton Manning and the Broncos last week in a 42-17 loss. Kaepernick showed he’s still not accurate as a passer and only throws it to the right receiver about three-fourths of the time. Defenses are simply daring him to beat them with his arm. All of this, however, doesn’t mean Kaepernick and the 49ers won’t find themselves in the Super Bowl this winter. The NFC West, after all, is the NFL’s version of the Mountain West this year. Nobody is all that consistent from week to week. But it does meanthe 49ers need to get a bit more creative with their young quarterback. He’s not going to sit in the pocket and beat anybody good.

•••

How did Mountain West football become so mediocre so quickly? It wasn’t all that long ago TCU, Boise State and Utah were legitimate BCS busters. The Wolf Pack was a program on the rise in 2010 and Fresno State, Hawaii and San Diego State were always dangerous and could beat anybody on a given weekend. But now everyone is sort of in a rebuilding mode and simply keeping their overall records above water by pounding on San Jose State, UNLV, New Mexico, Air Force and Hawaii. The games are fun but is it really football when nobody can tackle, cover a receiver or protect a lead? It’s sort of like watching 8-year-old soccer where you just know the ball is going to end up in the net eventually because the goalie keeps looking over to the ice chest that contains the juice boxes and fruit roll-ups. Is this brand of football satisfying enough to keep a fan base interested? It better be, Wolf Pack fans. This is Mountain West football, a collection of schools the important conferences don’t want. It’s just television programming, something to put on the air until midnight on Friday and Saturday nights.