Tyler Stewart learned a valuable lesson from Cody Fajardo the last three years.
“He was always pretty poised,” Stewart said this week as the Nevada Wolf Pack opened its summer training camp. “Even when something would go wrong, he was poised. The Arizona game (last year) was a good example. We got down in the game but he stayed the same and at the end we had a chance to tie the game.”
Stewart, who joined the Wolf Pack as a wide-eyed freshman out of Sierra Canyon High in Chatsworth, Calif., in 2012 under former coach Chris Ault, is now a junior. The 6-foot-4, 220 pounder spent the bulk of his first three seasons in the program watching Fajardo. He now finds himself in a battle for the starting quarterback job along with freshmen Hunter Fralick and Austin Kafentzis and sophomore Dante Mayes.
The competition doesn’t faze him at all.
“It didn’t get the attention like this but last year I was in a battle for the No. 2 job,” Stewart said. “So I’m used to it. I look at it the same way.”
Stewart clearly has Fajardo’s poise.
“I’m just going about it the same way this year like I did last year,” Stewart said.
Stewart is the only current Wolf Pack quarterback who has started a game at the Division I level. He tossed three touchdowns and completed 14-of-20 passes for 202 yards in a 31-9 victory at Mackay Stadium over Hawaii on Sept. 21, 2013. All three of the touchdowns were for under 10 yards (five and two yards to tight end Kolbe Arendse and seven yards to Brandon Wimberly) as the Wolf Pack used a conservative approach with the then freshman Stewart.
Over a third of his passing yards (68) came on one busted play to Arendse on the Pack’s second drive,. That drive ended with a 5-yard scoring strike to Arendse. At one point Stewart completed eight short passes in a row. On the first pass of the second quarter he found Arendse again for a 2-yard touchdown and a 14-3 lead. The touchdown to Wimberly came on the Pack’s first drive of the third quarter as the Pack took a 24-9 lead.
Stewart finished the 2013 season with 21 completions in 37 attempts for three touchdowns, 251 yards and two interceptions. Last year he got into just one game (the regular season finale at UNLV) and did not throw a pass.
Stewart, though, believes he is ready to take over the offense in 2015.
“I am always pretty confident in myself,” he said. “I feel I can do what I am asked to do.”
One of those things will be to run the ball more than he has in his Pack career. In 2013 he ran the ball six times for 24 yards, with 42 yards coming on one play in the fourth quarter against Hawaii. Last year he lost four yards on his only carry. Mayes, Kafentzis and Fralick are all considered better runners than Stewart though Stewart, the tallest at 6-foot-4, has the most pocket presence of the four.
“I know I have to run the ball in this offense,” Stewart said. “I didn’t do much of that in high school because they didn’t want me to get hurt. I just need to get reps running the ball. I can run. I played basketball in high school. It’s not like I was a quarterback who never ran.”
Stewart did enough in spring practice to remain in the battle for the starting job.
“I felt like I did a good job of not trying to do too much,” he said. “That’s when you get in trouble, when you try to do too much.”