FACTS & STATS: Site: Spartan Stadium (30,456) — San Jose, California.
Television: CBSSN. Home Record: Nevada 2-0, SJSU 1-0. Away Record: Nevada 0-1,
SJSU 0-2. Neutral Record: Nevada 0-0, SJSU 0-0. Conference Record: Nevada 0-0,
SJSU 0-0. Series Record: Nevada leads, 17-8-2.
GAME NOTES: Heading back to the football field this week after some time off,
the Nevada Wolf Pack are set to begin their Mountain West Conference schedule
as they pay a visit to the San Jose State Spartans on Saturday night.
Nevada opened the 2014 campaign with consecutive home wins against Southern
Utah and Washington State, but on Sept. 13 the team was tripped up by Arizona
in Tucson by a score of 35-28. Despite the setback to the Wildcats, Nevada
quarterback Cody Fajardo was still named the MWC’s Offensive Player of the
Heading into this week, Nevada was the only team in the West Division of the
MWC with a winning record.
Meanwhile, the Spartans have had a bit of a tougher time through the first
three games of the campaign, losing two of them. Since conquering North Dakota
in the home opener, 42-10, on Aug. 28, SJSU has bowed to both Auburn (59-13)
and Minnesota (24-7) on the road.
Last season, with the Spartans in the hunt for a postseason invitation, SJSU
lost three straight during the month of November, with one of those setbacks
being a 38-16 loss to Nevada. With the victory, the Pack now owns a 17-8-2
advantage in the all-time series.
Nevada got off to a slow start against the Wildcats in the most recent outing,
registering just two field goals through the first 29 minutes of action,
enough of a stumbling block to prevent the team from completing a comeback
bid. Fajardo converted 29-of-39 passes for 321 yards and three touchdowns,
but with two sacks he finished with a mere 14 net rushing yards, which is not
what he is accustomed to these days.
In fact, the Pack rushing attack accounted for only 108 yards on 40 attempts,
compared to 229 yards and a pair of TDs for Arizona. On a more positive note,
at least the Nevada offense didn’t suffer a turnover and as a result the squad
is tied for 20th in the country this week in turnover margin with a plus-1.0.
Fajardo, who at times can be a bit of a gambler in the pocket and out on the
run, has thrown just one interception in 101 attempts, completing an
impressive 70.3 percent of his attempts for four touchdowns. On the ground,
the signal caller is second on the unit with 182 yards and he has reached the
end zone once.
Although he is averaging only 3.6 yards per carry, Don Jackson is leading the
Pack with 74.3 ypg and has three TDs to his credit. The squad as a whole is
producing 188.7 ypg, which is 47th in the nation this week and considerably
less than what the team has been used to in recent years.
On the defensive side of the ball, Nevada is tied for second nationally in
preventing opponents from scoring inside the red zone, allowing just 50
percent success at the moment.
San Jose State was within three points of the Golden Gophers at the end of one
period of play last Saturday, but the visitors then suffered a multitude of
miscues and failed to challenge the rest of the way. After Blake Jurich tossed
a 27-yard TD to Tyler Winston with under a minute remaining in the first
frame, everything began to fall apart for SJSU from missing two field goals,
to losing three fumbles and suffering an interception.
Jurich, who was listed as probable for the game with a forearm injury,
converted 14-of-29 passes for 161 yards and was picked off twice, with the
quarterback finishing second on the unit in rushing with a mere 12 net yards.
Winston was credited with nine catches for 94 yards, but that wasn’t nearly
enough to offset all of the confusion.
Vince Buhagiar tallied a game-high 11 tackles and forced one fumble for the
Spartans, while Jimmy Pruitt has a forced fumble and one recovery during the
setback as well. Unfortunately, those efforts did little to slow down a
Minnesota running attack that logged 380 yards and three touchdowns on 58
Through three games, SJSU is ranked 121st in the country in yards allowed on
the ground (285.3 ypg). The good news is that the pass defense has held foes
to a paltry 89.3 ypg, second-best in the nation behind only Stanford (66.0
ypg), but that could have more to do with how well opponents have been able to
run the ball.
Unfortunately, while opponents have found it easy to run on the Spartans early
on this season, the same cannot be said for the SJSU ball carriers who have
combined to average only 94.3 ypg and a pair of touchdowns. Jurich has tried
to compensate with 64.2 percent accuracy through the air, but he has almost as
many interceptions (four) as he does touchdown passes (five).
This might be the perfect opportunity for Fajardo to again stretch his legs
and force the San Jose State defense to follow his every move, which should
include at least one trip to the end zone if all goes according to plan for
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Nevada 31, San Jose State 20