Nevada doesn’t fear Cougars’ ‘big boy’ status

  • By Scott Sonner Associated Press
  • Friday, September 5, 2014 12:29am
  • SportsSports

RENO, Nev. ? Nevada’s seniors set out to spread a unified message to younger teammates in a shortened week leading up to Friday night’s matchup with Washington State: Don’t fear the big boys.

?They kind of have that Pac-12 intimidation factor going for them,? Wolf Pack defensive end Brock Hekking said. ?We’ve tried to reach out to the younger guys and get them to realize we’ve faced Pac-12 opponents before … and won. There’s no need to have that fear.?

Maybe easier said than done given the scary numbers Washington State senior quarterback Connor Halliday and his fleet of speedy receivers put up week in and week out.

Halliday completed 40 of 56 passes for 532 yards and five touchdowns in last week’s 41-38 season-opening loss to Rutgers in Seattle.

?They are an explosive team,? second-year Nevada coach Brian Polian said. ?We’ll definitely have our hands full.?

Nevada counters with senior quarterback Cody Fajardo, who passed for 303 yards and ran for 68 in Saturday’s 29-19 season-opening win over Southern Utah.

Hekking made his first start in Nevada’s last win over a Pac-12 opponent, at California in 2012. But he remembers his debut as a freshman the year before when he ?absolutely? was intimidated and blew an assignment on his second play, leading to a 69-yard touchdown in a 69-20 loss at Oregon.

?They had me on the wheel route ? ?Brock, you go the wheel route,?’ Hekking said. ?And as soon as they said ?hike,’ everything just froze. I saw the quarterback so I just ran after him. They threw it over, scored a touchdown. Got yelled at.?

?Once you get that out of your system, things flow a little bit better. … I wish someone would have reached out to me when I was young and told me that.?

Washington State coach Mike Leach said he was glad 16 Cougars who had never started before got significant playing time last week. He said inexperience in the defensive backfield is his biggest concern.

?Most of them played pretty good for their first time,? Leach said. ?We’ve got a lot of people we’ve got to break in but we’re definitely better. … (Nevada’s) guys are an older team.?

Things to watch as Nevada hosts Washington State:

1 Quality quarterbacks

Leach said Halliday proved himself one of the best quarterbacks in the nation last year when he led Washington State to its first bowl game in a decade, passing for a school-record 4,597 yards and 34 touchdowns.

Fajardo’s 371 yards of total offense last week leave him 32 shy of joining Colin Kaepernick (2007-10) and David Neill (1998-01) in Nevada’s 10,000 yard club. He completed 68 percent of his passes last year for 2,668 yards with 13 touchdowns and only three interceptions.

2 Running Cougars? Not!

Washington State only ran the ball eight times last week and Polian expects more of the same.

?They are going to do what they do,? he said.

He hopes his rushing attack can keep the Cougars’ hurry-up offense off the field ? at least in spurts ? to give his defense a chance to catch its breath. ?Obviously, we’ve got to try to slow them down … try to make their offense go a long way and not give up explosives.?

3 Don’t count your touchdowns

Leach’s last trip to Reno was with Texas Tech in a 35-19 victory in 2008 that was expected to be a shootout with Kaepernick going against a Texas Tech squad that featured wideout Michael Crabtree, now his 49ers teammate.

?It was a funny game,? Leach said. ?Supposed to be a huge offensive shootout and both defenses played extremely well.?

4 Secondary shake up

Washington State’s defense gave up a long touchdown pass on Rutger’s first play from scrimmage last week, and coaches have decided to shake up the inexperienced secondary.

Defensive backs Tracy Clark and Teondray Caldwell are no longer in the starting lineup. Charleston White and Darius Lemora will start instead.

5 Scenic environment

Nevada is hoping to approach a sellout at 29,993-seat Mackay Stadium with a whiteout planned for the ESPN broadcast. ?It’s an interesting environment, sort of a scenic place,? Leach said. ?The locker room you literally come out in the crowd. You’ve got fans right beside you screaming and hollering.?

More in Sports

Seahawks shake off slow start, sideline fracas to beat Giants

Russell Wilson throws 3 2nd-half TD passes and Seattle’s defense allows just 177 yards in 24-7 win.

Analysis: Huskies still in good shape at midseason

Despite a loss to ASU before the bye, UW is still in a good spot to repeat in the Pac-12 North.

Seahawks notebook:Baldwin meets with commissioner Goodell

Plus, running back C.J. Prosise gets hurt again and rookie offensive lineman Ethan Pocic debuts.

Grading the Seahawks’ 24-7 win over the Giants

Here’s how the Seattle Seahawks grade out in their 24-7 victory over… Continue reading

REFLECTIONS: Silvertips fall to Thunderbirds in first of 10 games

The Game It was another tough one for the Silvertips who dropped… Continue reading

Thunderbirds hand Silvertips 4th consecutive defeat

Seattle beats Everett 4-3 in the first of 10 scheduled matchups between the two U.S. Division rivals.

QUOTES: Seahawks coach Pete Carroll on win vs. Giants

Seattle coach Pete Carroll gives his opening remarks following the Seahawks’ victory over New York.

Sounders wrap up regular season with win over Rapids

Nicolas Lodeiro scores twice to life Seattle to a 3-0 win.

High school football at a crossroads

Local high school football participation numbers are following a downward trend.

Most Read