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Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Why Week 12 matters to Nevada

By Andrea Adelson

The season started with a wallop.

They had to travel to Oregon. To Texas Tech. To Boise State. In all, the Nevada Wolf Pack had four straight road games to open the season, two against teams ranked in the Top 5. With a new starting quarterback to boot.

You can probably see where this is going.

Nevada opened the season 1-3 and ended up with a little quarterback quandry on its hands. Tyler Lantrip, who took over for all-everything Colin Kaepernick, was playing inconsistent. Redshirt freshman Cody Fajardo had a bit more spark.

Cody Fajardo
QB Cody Fajardo and the Wolf Pack have the chance to win their second straight conference title.
Coach Chris Ault decided to go with Fajardo as his starter, and the Wolf Pack have been on an incredible scoring roll ever since. Now they go into their game against Louisiana Tech in control of their WAC destiny.

That is why Week 12 matters to Nevada.

A win, and the Wolf Pack clinch at least a share of the WAC title in their final year in the conference. Nevada (6-3, 4-0) and Louisiana Tech (6-3, 4-1) are atop the league standings.

"Oh yeah this is by far the WAC championship because if we win we've got at least a share of the WAC championship, and we're not going to let us lose," Fajardo said. "We're going to fight hard and hopefully come away with a piece of the WAC championship."

Fajardo is coming off his second WAC Offensive Player of the Week honor after accounting for 371 yards and four touchdowns in a 42-28 win over Hawaii. Fajardo completed 25-of-36 passes for 290 yards and a career-high three touchdowns, and also rushed 19 times for 81 yards and a touchdown.

Nevada has scored at least 40 points in his last four starts, and he has not thrown an interception in 111 attempts.

"He's made great progress," Ault said. "Much faster than I thought we could do with certain things we try to do in our offense. He's a terrific runner, and he's gotten better in his passing and ability to read the defense."

What has been particularly impressive is the way this team has responded since such a tough opening stretch. Remember, the Wolf Pack went into this year off the best season in school history. Kaepernick guided his team to a 13-1 record while breaking all manner of records in the process.

Also gone was starting running back Vai Taua and a host of others. After a bumpy start to the season, Nevada has shown growth and improvement. Mike Ball is averaging over 100 yards on the ground, and Rishard Matthews is averaging 100 yards receving as well. Even without their best players from a year ago, Nevada still ranks No. 5 in the nation in total offense, averaging 524.7 yards a game in their vaunted Pistol formation.

Now the Wolf Pack have the opportunity to win their second straight championship. Nevada has won 16 straight home games, tied for the second longest streak in the nation, and has won 10 straight WAC games.

They have to keep those streaks alive in a very important week.