“There is only so many firsts in your life and when you get your first win as a head coach it’s pretty special,” Polian said.
Nevada thumped UC Davis 36-7 Saturday night at Mackay Stadium to improve to 1-1 on the season while UC Davis fell to 0-2 after falling 10-7 at South Dakota last weekend. Nevada was whacked by UCLA 58-20 in Pasadena last weekend.
Quarterback Cody Fajardo finished a cool 18-of- 21 for 239 yards with two touchdowns. He added 43 yards and a score on the ground before getting pulled in the middle of the third quarter once the game was out of reach.
The rocking Mackay Stadium crowd of 27,052 experienced a sobering moment in the second quarter when Fajardo hit the turf awkwardly after tweaking his right knee, and remained there until trainers helped him get up.
“It was kind of one of those things where you just go ‘uh oh’ and you just get a weird feeling in your knee,” Fajardo said. “I don’t know what’s wrong, if there’s anything wrong. It could be stiff. It could just be some swelling. We’ll see when I go in and get some treatment (tomorrow).”
After getting off the turf, Fajardo jogged to the sideline much to the pleasure of the large crowd.
“(It was) a fantastic crowd for an opener,” Polian said. “The whole atmosphere was pretty cool.”
Fajardo started the second half before watching the rest of the game from the sideline midway through the third quarter with a healthy lead.
Nevada grabbed the momentum on the second play of the game when UC Davis quarterback Jimmy Laughrea threw the ball high to his running back, Manusamoa Luuga, into the lap Bryan Lane Jr. The pick was the first of Lane’s career.
Fajardo scrambled from seven yards out three plays later to put the Pack up 7-0 one minute into the game.
UC Davis threatened on its next drive reaching the Nevada 30-yard line after Luuga ran off the right side for 46 yards. But the Aggies lost seven yards over the next three plays and were forced to punt. Fajardo hooked up with Richy Turner for a 40-yard score four plays later to cap an 80-yard drive, which lasted just more than a minute.
Turner was Fajardo’s favorite target of the night, turning in the second 100-yard performance of his career, grabbing six passes for 136 yards and one touchdown.
A botched point after attempt left Nevada with a 13-0 lead less than five minutes into the game.
The excitement, and rapid pace then went for a leisurely stroll through the park. Four consecutive punts followed the early scoring frenzy before UC Davis was finally able to threaten in the middle of the second quarter.
The Aggies marched 80 yards in 10 plays largely on the heels of a 59-yard connection between Laughrea and Alex Cannon that moved UC Davis to the Nevada 10-yard line. Unable to find the end zone, the Aggies settled for a 31-yard field attempt. Brady Stuart missed it wide right.
Nevada responded with a methodical 16-play, 80-yard, touchdown drive that resulted in a 2-yard Kendall Brock touchdown run, the first of his career. Brock was inserted into the starting lineup during pregame after starting running back Don Jackson was pulled from the lineup after turning his ankle in practice Thursday. He is listed as day-to-day.
Brock, a junior, broke the 100-yard barrier for the first time in his career and finished with 116 yards and two touchdowns on 27 touches.
“It was a last second deal. I had no idea Don (Jackson) wasn’t playing,” Brock said. “It was an honor to step in and get those carries and help this team win.”
Nevada was also without starting safety Charles Garrett and offensive tackle Kyle Roberts, who were each suspended one game “for a violation of team rules.”
Polian would not comment on the reason of the suspensions.
Trailing 20-0, UC Davis’ Shamawn Wright returned the ensuing kickoff 59 yards into Nevada territory. Laughrea hit Tom Hemmingsen three plays later from 23 yards out to close the gap to 20-7 with a minute left in the half.
Laughrea finished 13-of-27 for 178 with one touchdown and two interceptions. Hemmingsen had the best receiving day for the Aggies grabbing six passes for 87 yards and UC Davis’ lone score of the night.
Despite holding the Aggies to seven points, the Nevada defense allowed 224 yards of total offense in the first half.
With UC Davis picking up momentum going into the locker room, and the Nevada offense being held to seven points over the final 25 minutes of the first half, it appeared the game might come down to whoever had the ball last.
That wasn’t the case.
Nevada scored touchdowns on two of its first three drives in the third quarter to stretch its lead to 33-7 and put the game away.
The Wolf Pack’s defense was suffocating, allowing only two second-half first downs and 72 yards of offense.
Despite the defensive change after the half, Polian said the team did not make any major halftime adjustments, or any adjustments at all.
“We didn’t change anything,” Polian said. “It goes back to what we were talking about after UCLA. We are just going to do what we do and we’re going to do it better.”
Polian said there are things his team needs to clean up but he is more than happy to win his first game as the Nevada coach.
“It was far from perfect. There were a lot of things we could do better,” Polian said. “But we are never going to apologize for a win. They are too hard to come by.”
Speaking of wins that are hard to come by, Nevada travels to Tallahassee, Fla. next Saturday to play Florida State.