Wolf Pack Notes: Martinez, Johnson earn WAC honors
Anthony Martinez doesn’t know what the fuss is all about.
“It wasn’t anything big,” the Nevada Wolf Pack placekicker said on Monday of his three-field goal, six-extra point performance in a 51-6 victory over Colorado State on Saturday night. “I just go out and do what I’m told to do.”
The Western Athletic Conference thought enough of Martinez’s performance to name him the conference’s Special Teams Player of the Week on Monday. Wolf Pack linebacker James-Michael Johnson was also named the WAC’s Defensive Player of the Week after getting nine tackles and 1 1/2 sacks against Colorado State.
Martinez, who just two seasons ago helped McQueen High to the Northern 4A football state championship, has been perfect this season so far. The redshirt freshman is 3-for-3 on field goals and 13-of-13 on extra points as the Pack offense has scored 100 points in two victories.
The 5-foot-6 Martinez has made a nice transition from high school after sitting out last season.
“There are still a little bit of nerves,” Martinez said. “But I just go out there, take a deep breath and do my job.”
Martinez’s three field goals against Colorado State were from 31, 33 and 22 yards out.
“He’s been money,” Pack head coach Chris Ault said. “He’s come out of nowhere and done a great job.”
The Wolf Pack found itself in need of a placekicker after last year’s starter, Ricky Drake, was suspended for two games after getting arrested early last month on charges of driving under the influence.
Drake, who scored 78 points last year on six field goals and 60 extra points, will return to the team this Friday when the Pack takes on California (7:05 p.m.) at Mackay Stadium.
“It’s just been a lot of fun to be out there in front of the home fans,” Martinez said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen now (with the placekicking duties) but I’m just going to keep going out there and doing my job.”
Ault said that both Drake and Martinez will be used against California. Nick Rhodes, who has handled the kickoff responsibilities the first two weeks (Drake did both last year) is also in the picture.
“I’m not ready to announce yet what we’ll do but he’s (Martinez) not going to be just standing on the sideline next to me,” Ault said.
Martinez had a dream ending to his high school football career, scoring on a 59-yard ruin to give McQueen a 13-12 lead late in the state title game. He then secured the victory with an interception.
“He’s a tremendous athlete,” Ault said.
“It’s been a little difficult for me (the move to college football) because I’m not used to just being a kicker,” Martinez said. “I’m not used to just coming in off the sideline and not already being warm and ready to go.”
Johnson, who was moved to inside linebacker this year after two seasons on the outside, led an improved defense against Colorado State. The Pack held an opponent without a touchdown in a game for the first time since 2006.
“He’s starting to feel more comfortable with every game he plays at middle linebacker,” Ault said. “We’ll need him to be real comfortable this week.”
CAL IN TOP 25: California, now 2-0, emerged in the Top 25 this week in the USA Today coaches’ poll.
The Bears are 24th. The Wolf Pack also received 12 votes in the poll.
Cal also got 45 votes in the Associated Press media poll, good for 29th place. The Wolf Pack got two votes in the AP poll (44th place). A total of 48 teams received at least one vote in the AP poll.
“It’s special to be able to play them,” Wolf Pack quarterback Colin Kaepernick said of Cal. “They are ranked. This is a big opportunity for us.”
A DREAM COME TRUE: Wolf Pack linebacker James- Michael Johnson will be living out a dream Friday night when Cal comes to Mackay Stadium.
“They were my favorite team growing up,” said Johnson, who is from Suisun, California, near the Bay area. “I always wanted to play against them. I loved to watch them play as a kid growing up. This is one of my dreams.”
WILLIAMS HAPPY TO BE BACK: Safety Duke Williams, who missed the season opener because of a one-game suspension, returned last Saturday against Colorado State.
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound sophomore from Hug High had five tackles, including one for a three-yard loss.
“I had a lot of butterflies,” said Williams, who started at free safety. “I was just happy to be back on the field. I hadn’t played a game since last year.”
Williams said he will get better.
“I had an OK game,” he said. “There were a couple jitters. But I was just trying to do my part. I’ll play much better this week.”
HOTTEST TICKET IN TOWN: Wolf Pack football spokesman Chad Hartley said Monday afternoon that 3,000 tickets remain for the California game Friday night at Mackay Stadium.
Tickets, as of Monday night, are still available in all price ranges but general admission tickets are almost sold out.
Hartley said the Wolf Pack expects a sell out at 30,000-seat Mackay Stadium.