NEW MEXICO BOWL
BOWL

Leader of the Pack

Overshadowed by star RB, Nevada QB Fajardo is a major playmaker
2012-12-15T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T12:12:56Z Leader of the PackPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
December 15, 2012 12:00 am  • 

ALBUQUERQUE - He was born six months before Nevada played its first game as a Division I-A football team and went to kindergarten in Albuquerque six years before the creation of the New Mexico Bowl.

But today, 20-year-old Cody Fajardo will look into the stands of University Stadium and see at least 40 friends and family dressed in the Wolf Pack's blue and silver, cheering him on.

"All my family," he said, "is here."

The sophomore quarterback lived in New Mexico's largest city for two years, when he was 5 and 6, before moving to Clovis, N.M., and then to Brea, in Southern California.

Playing in relative obscurity in Reno, The Biggest Little City in the World, Fajardo has been overshadowed by running back Stefphon Jefferson, the nation's second-leading rusher.

But the Arizona Wildcats know exactly what to expect in today's New Mexico Bowl.

"He's a playmaker," UA linebacker Jake Fischer said. "He knows exactly what he's doing."

All he does, it seems, is make big plays. Consider:

• Fajardo has 2,530 passing yards and 981 rushing yards this season and has scored 17 passing touchdowns and 11 rushing touchdowns.

• He has 37 plays of more than 20 yards per game despite missing one start with an injury this year. His 12 big-play runs are more than even Jefferson can boast.

His 25 passes of 20 yards or more trails UA quarterback Matt Scott's 39.

• Fajardo is No. 11 in the nation with 319.2 total yards per game, about 20 yards fewer than Scott.

"He's got good speed," Fischer said. "But a lot of people don't focus on the arm, because they run the ball so well.

"But when he has a chance to throw the ball, he's great."

Fajardo ran a version of the Rich Rodriguez-created zone read option at Servite High School in Anaheim, where he won a state championship and was named California Player of the Year. He had to learn the Wolf Pack's "Pistol" offense, in which the quarterback stands about half the distance of a shotgun snap from the center, with the running back directly behind him.

Fajardo redshirted his freshman year, watching then-senior - and current San Francisco 49ers starter - Colin Kaepernick, before taking over the starting job in Week 5 last season.

Fajardo led Nevada to five straight wins last year and was named the Western Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year.

"I had a little bit of an edge on the other quarterbacks competing for the job," he said. "I knew how to do it. I knew how to read the guys.

"Essentially, the 'Pistol' offense is its own animal. It's nothing near the spread offense or the zone read stuff, but it's got sprinkles of the zone read in it."

Jefferson said Fajardo can torture the opposing defensive end, who has to read whether or not Fajardo hands the ball off on every play or runs it himself.

"I couldn't even imagine if I played defense," Jefferson said, "and had to defend the 'Pistol.'"

The Wildcats will find out firsthand today. If they have any advantage, it's that they've had two full weeks to scheme for the "Pistol."

Other bowl opponents of Nevada's have benefited; this is Nevada's eighth straight postseason appearance, but the Wolf Pack boasts only two wins.

Boise State, the only team all year to hold the Wolf Pack to fewer than 30 points, had a bye before the teams' Dec. 1 game.

"Games like this are interesting because there's more time to prepare for them, but there hasn't been that much for either side," Nevada coach Chris Ault said.

He said "you all of a sudden don't rewrite the book" just to be different.

Like every week, the Wolf Pack will rely, heavily, on Fajardo.

"If we can get a win in this bowl game," Fajardo said, "it'd be a pretty complete season for us."

The Fajardo factor

Nevada QB Cody Fajardo has had success in much the same vein as Arizona QB Matt Scott:

230

Fajardo's passing yards per game; Scott is averaging 294

89.2

Fajardo's rushing yards per game;

Scott is averaging 44.1

28 (17, 11)

Fajardo's TDs (pass, rush breakdown);

Scott has accounted for 29 (24, 5)

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