The Nevada Wolf Pack coaching staff hasn’t lost confidence in running back Chris Solomon.
“We’re not upset with him,” head coach Brian Polian said. “We’re not down on him. Chris is still a young player. He’s still learning how to play college football at this level. He’ll continue to improve.”
Solomon, who began the year as the Wolf Pack’s No. 3 running back, moved into a starting role by the third game of the season because of injuries to Don Jackson and Kendall Brock. The red-shirt freshman, though, has struggled the last two games, gaining just 54 yards on 29 carries against Hawaii and Air Force combined.
“I just think he’s trying to do too much,” Polian said. “He saw what he did against Florida State (108 yards on 26 carries) and I think he’s just been trying to hit a home run on every play instead of just taking what the play is giving him.”
Jackson, the starter at the beginning of the season, returned to the field in Saturday’s 45-42 win over Air Force. The sophomore had missed the previous three games with an ankle injury and had not played since the season opener at UCLA. He had just three carries against Air Force but he gained 25 yards and scored on a critical 9-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter to cut the Falcons’ lead to 35-30.
“Don Jackson will carry the ball more for sure,” Polian said. “I’m pleased with his effort. I know he’s probably frustrated because he would have liked to play more (against Air Force). But all credit to him. When he did touch it, he made a difference.”
The Wolf Pack running game has been productive this year, gaining 914 yards and scoring eight touchdowns over the first five games. But the Pack’s average carry of 3.8 yards is the lowest in the pistol era (since 2005). The last time the Pack averaged under four yards a carry was 2002 (3.9 a carry) and the last time they averaged under five yards a carry was 2007 (4.9).
“We’re running it at a decent clip,” Polian said. “All three (Brock, Jackson, Solomon) will play and touch the ball.”
The Wolf Pack ground game is likely to improve just by having a healthy Cody Fajardo in the lineup. The quarterback has played just three games and is still second in rushing with 223 yards behind Brock (301) and ahead of Solomon (202). Fajardo has also scored five of the Pack’s eight rushing touchdowns.
“I like having fresh guys in there,” said Fajardo of the Jackson-Brock-Solomon running back trio. “It gives me a breather. And they all can do a great job. We have a three-headed monster back there.”
FAJARDO HAS ACTIVE NIGHT: Fajardo returned to the field against Air Force for the first time since suffering a sprained right knee against UC Davis on Sept. 7. The junior had the best game statistically in his career, completing 38-of-54 passes for 389 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He also carried the ball 11 times for 81 yards and two touchdowns. The amount of completions and attempts are career highs for Fajardo and the three touchdowns equaled his career high.
“I didn’t think I’d ever throw 54 passes in my career,” he said.
Fajardo’s 38 completions are tied for the third most in Wolf Pack history. Chris Vargas completed 43 against McNeese State in 1992 and Mike Maxwell completed 41 against UNLV and 38 against Toledo, both in 1995. Vargas’ 54 attempts are tied for ninth place in Wolf Pack history.
“We felt going into the game that we’d be able to throw,” Polian said. “But I didn’t want to be that imbalanced (the Pack ran the ball 44 times). But he (Fajardo) played out of his mind.”
Fajardo wore a brace on his right leg against Air Force and expects to wear it again against San Diego State on Friday night.
“I feel 100 per cent confident with the knee brace,” Fajardo said. “If I took it off, I don’t know. But it doesn’t hinder my performance at all. I can still run and do everything I need to do.”
“If the doctors tell us it’s OK for him to take it off, he’ll take it off,” Polian said.
Fajardo said he is now glad he sat out the games against Hawaii and Florida State.
“I’m so happy I did that,” Fajardo said. “I really wanted to come back against Hawaii but it was still a little unstable. We had to think long term with something like this. I wanted to be here for the San Diego State, Fresno State and Boise State (all on the road). I hated sitting out those games but I knew I had to let the knee heal.”
BACK IN ACTION: Polian said linebacker Jordan Dobrich and guards Zack Brickell and Connor Talbott will return to action on Friday night.
Dobrich hurt his leg in the pre-game warmups against Air Force and played briefly, mainly on special teams.
“It proves I’m not living right with some of the crazy stuff that’s happened to us this year,” Polian said. “Pneumonia in August, our starting middle linebacker goes down in the pre-game warm-up. It‘s been crazy.”
Brickell was the one suffering from a case of pneumonia and Talbott has been out with an ankle injury.
“Dobrich should be good to go,” Polian said. “And I anticipate (Brickell and Talbott) will play. I don’t know who will start (at guard) but we’ll have a three-guard rotation with Jeremy Macauley, Fred Lavulo and Talbott.”
Polian said tight end Stephen Jeffers (foot injury) is also close to returning. “He probably won’t play this game but he’ll be practicing soon,” Polian said.
REED HIGH CONNECTION: The Wolf Pack and San Diego State feature four offensive linemen from Reed High in Sparks.
Jeremy Macauley, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound red-shirt freshman, starts for the Wolf Pack at guard. Kyle Roberts, a 6-6, 305-pound junior offensive tackle, also starts for the Wolf Pack. Austin Corbett (6-3, 350) is sitting out his true freshman season as a red-shirt for the Wolf Pack. Austin’s brother Garrett Corbett, a 6-5, 290-pound junior, is the Aztecs’ primary backup at left tackle.
“It will be fun to go down there and play against someone you know real well,” Roberts said.
Roberts and Garrett Corbett were teammates at Reed from 2006-09. Both sat out the 2010 season as red shirts. Garrett Corbett missed the entire 2012 season for the Aztecs with a leg injury after playing eight games in 2011. Roberts played two games in 2011 and nine last year before stepping into a starting role this year at Nevada.
“We (Roberts, Garrett Corbett) both had the same offers (Nevada, San Diego State, UNLV) out of high school,” Roberts said. “It would have been nice if we would have gone to the same college but he felt more comfortable down there and I felt better here. It’s worked out well for both of us.”
WOLF PACK COMING TO CARSON VALLEY: The Wolf Pack will conduct its weekly Quarterback Luncheon on Oct. 7 at the Carson Valley Inn in Minden.
Polian will go over the San Diego State game and talk about upcoming Pack games at the luncheon.
The public is invited to the event and must RSVP to Judy Cail (682-6901). Doors open at 11:30 a.m. and tickets are $17.
There will be no Quarterback Club Luncheon the following Monday on Oct. 14 because the Wolf Pack will be coming off a bye week.
THIS AND THAT: The Wolf Pack’s 100 offensive plays against Air Force is the third most in school history behind the 114 plays against Furman in 1990 and 105 against Arizona last December. The 100 plays, though, are the most by the Wolf Pack in a regular season game. The Furman game was a Division I-AA playoff game and the Arizona game was in the New Mexico Bowl . . . The win over Air Force is the first time the Pack has won a game while allowing 40 or more points since a 56-42 win over Utah State on Oct. 30, 2010 . . . Fajardo now has a record of 13-10 as the Wolf Pack starting quarterback . . . The Wolf Pack has not had a 100-yard rusher in each of its last two games against Hawaii and Air Force. It is just the second time (against Air Force and Fresno State last year) since the start of the 2009 season that the Pack has gone back-to-back games without a 100-yard rusher . . . Polian said backup quarterback Devin Combs underwent successful knee surgery last week and has already started his rehabilitation . . . Former Wolf Pack assistant coach and head coach Jeff Horton is in his third year as San Diego State’s running backs coach . . . Linebackers Micah Seau (San Diego State) and Ian Seau (Wolf Pack) are cousins and both are nephews of former San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau.