Nevada Wolf Pack quarterback Cody Fajardo has something to prove to his head coach this week.
“He has to be able to protect himself,” Wolf Pack head coach Brian Polian said this week. “If he can’t we won’t put him back there.”
Polian said that Fajardo, who has a 12-10 record as the Wolf Pack starting quarterback since 2011, might not play Saturday afternoon (12:35 p.m., ESPN) at No. 10 Florida State in Tallahassee, Fla.
“He’s day to day,” Polian said.
Fajardo suffered a sprained right knee near the end of the first half last Saturday night in a 36-7 victory over UC Davis. He was sacked for a 7-yard loss by Davis’ Nick King and crawled on the ground in pain for about five yards. Fajardo, though, stayed in the game and played the first three Wolf Pack possessions of the second half before leaving with a 33-7 lead.
“It’s a little stiff,” Fajardo said. “But I’m a competitor. It’s hard to get me off the field.”
Polian, though, isn’t about to risk losing Fajardo for an extended period of time. If Fajardo cannot avoid the Florida State pass rush on Saturday, the Pack’s quarterback duties will be handled by junior Devin Combs and red-shirt freshman Tyler Stewart. Combs led the Wolf Pack to comeback victories last season over Wyoming and UNLV when Fajardo missed a game and a half because of injuries.
Polian blames himself for Fajardo’s latest injury.
“I was very upset with myself with the way I managed the end of the half,” Polian said. “I was very relieved to find out that it (Fajardo’s injury) is nothing major. I used it as a coaching point with the running back who was in pass protection because you cannot cut (block below the knee) defenders in the middle of the formation because that’s what happens. They jump over you and they end up hitting the quarterback on the leg.
“But I put everybody in a bad position. We should have been handing off the ball and I take full responsibility for that. That’s not (offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich). That’s me.”
Fajardo, Polian said, will likely be a game-time decision Saturday.
“He may still not be able to do everything in our (offensive) package but he has to be able to protect himself,” Polian said.
JACKSON ALSO HOBBLING: Running back Don Jackson missed last Saturday’s game against Davis because of a sprained ankle suffered in practice last week.
Jackson, who fought through injuries at Iowa Western Community College last season, has had just 12 carries for 35 yards (all against UCLA two weeks ago) this season. The sophomore tailback also missed time in August’s training camp with injuries.
“As long as a player is doing everything he can to get back (on the field) I don’t have a problem with him,” Polian said. “And he’s doing that. I see a guy who is doing everything he can. His injury was just bad luck.”
Kendall Brock, who was switched to tailback last spring after playing wide receiver his first two seasons at Nevada, ran the ball 27 times for 116 yards and two touchdowns against Davis.
Like Fajardo, Polian said, Jackson is considered “day to day” with his ankle injury.
LANE MIGHT STAY AT SAFETY: Bryan Lane’s move to linebacker might not last all that long after all.
Lane moved to outside linebacker this summer after playing safety last season as a freshman. He was then pressed into duty at strong safety last week against Davis when starter Charles Garrett was suspended because of disciplinary reasons. The 210-pound Lane played so well (one interception, one tackle) that he was named by the coaches as the Pack’s defensive player of the week.
The Pack, Polian said, is seriously considering moving Lane back to safety on a permanent basis.
“We are definitely thinking of doing that,” Polian said. “It all comes down to whether or not our defense is better as a whole with Lane at safety. He might be our best (outside) linebacker but our defense overall might be better with him as safety. That’s a decision we have to make.”
Polian admitted that he hasn’t been satisfied with the performance of the Pack safeties so far this season.
“We haven’t gotten great production at safety,” he said. “We saw (Lane) make impact plays. Maybe he needs to stay there.”
Lane just wants to be on the field.
“It (the move from safety to linebacker and back again) isn’t that much different,” he said. “It’s kind of the same position except I’m deep (in coverage) sometimes. I just go into it with the mentality of whatever helps the team. I go into it with a positive attitude and go 100 miles an hour every play whether I’m at (linebacker) or at safety.”
WIMBERLY WEARS RED: Senior wide receiver Brandon Wimberly showed up at Tuesday’s weekly press conference wearing bright red shoes and shorts. Former head coach Chris Ault, who was Wimberly’s coach from 2008 through last year, was adamant about not allowing his players to wear the color red. Red, after all, is the primary color of UNLV, the Pack’s top rival.
“Coach Polian doesn’t really mind,” Wimberly smiled. “I have a lot of stuff in my closet that I haven’t been able to wear the last six years. I just thought I’d break it out a little bit.”
The 6-3, 225-pound Wimberly has played very well this season, catching 10 passes for 101 yards and one touchdown. He has caught a pass in all 42 games of his Pack career, the longest current streak in the nation. He has 174 receptions for 2,161 yards and 11 touchdowns in his career. He is 13th in school history in receiving yards and needs just one catch to tie Jeff Wright (1976-79) for eighth place in receptions with 175.
HENDERSON MAKING STRIDES: Former quarterback Hasaan Henderson is making a smooth transition to wide receiver this year. The red-shirt freshman from Las Vegas High School caught two passes for 18 yards against Davis and now has five catches for 55 yards this season.
“His role will expand to as much as he can handle,” Polian said. “He’s only been at wideout in his life for about six months. But clearly he’s a guy who can go up and make plays.”
Henderson is the Pack’s biggest wide receiver at 6-5, 230-pounds and arguably the most athletic.
“His ball skills are fantastic,” Polian said. “He looks like a rebounder. He’s a weapon down in the red zone and we need to continue to try and use him and expand his role.”
POLIAN THE DISCIPLINARIAN: Polian had to suspend three players last week against Davis for unspecified violations of team rules. Garrett and offensive tackle Kyle Roberts were suspended for the entire game and defensive lineman Rykeem Yates was suspended for the first quarter.
“There’s a standard of performance and behavior that we expect,” Polian said. “And if we don’t get it, it’s going to cost guys playing time. We’re just not going to back off of that.”
JEFFERS STILL OUT: Polian said tight end Stephen Jeffers (Bishop Manogue High graduate) will likely miss the next two or three games with a foot injury. Jeffers, a senior, has yet to play this season.
The news this week, though, was good for Jeffers, Polian said.
“It was a hurdle to see if (his injury) was going to be a season ender or not,” Polian said. “It turns out it’s not a season ender but he’s still not quite ready to go just yet. It will be another couple weeks or so.”
The 6-3, 265-pound Jeffers has caught four passes in his Wolf Pack career for 28 yards and one touchdown.
SPECIAL TEAMS STRUGGLING: Polian has not been happy with the performance of the Wolf Pack special teams so far.
“It has not been good,” said Polian, who has been a special teams coordinator at such schools as Notre Dame, Stanford and Texas A&M.
Wolf Pack opponents are averaging 24.1 yards on kickoff returns and an alarming 19.2 on punt returns. The Pack has also missed two extra points and has had one punt blocked. Davis, a Football Championship Sub-division school, had a 59-yard kickoff return.
“I’m intimately involved (in special teams) so it hasn’t been for a lack of effort,” Polian said. “We’re finding out about some guys in game situations. You never know how they will react under the lights and we’ve had to make some changes. It’s just a combination of things. But we’ll get it right. I now that. (Special teams coach Lester Erb) is working his tail off. I’m working my tail off. We’ll fix it.”