We have to keep the focus on ourselves and on the things that we are doing and what we can control. —WSU interim head coach Jody Sears
If the Wildcats don't finally break into the win column this weekend, well, they may not win a ballgame all year long.
That's the scenario Weber State's football team is facing Saturday when the winless Wildcats visit Big Sky Conference newcomer UC Davis in the two teams' second league game of the season. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. MDT at Davis, Calif.
The Wildcats dropped a 32-26 decision to Eastern Washington in their league opener a week ago, while the Aggies of UC Davis lost in their Big Sky debut, 28-20, at Cal Poly last Saturday and will be playing their first-ever Big Sky home game Saturday night. The two teams have played just two previous times, both of them in Ogden.
"UC Davis will be another good test for us and is an extremely well-coached football team with a very balanced offense," WSU interim head coach Jody Sears said. "We have to keep the focus on ourselves and on the things that we are doing and what we can control."
Weber State's brutal early season schedule has seen the Wildcats face two Football Bowl Subdivision big boys (Fresno State and BYU) on the road and two nationally ranked Football Championship Subdivision teams (McNeese State and Eastern Washington) at home, resulting in a frustrating 0-4 start — making WSU the Big Sky's only team without a win.
But the Wildcats saw some signs of hope and encouragement despite last week's loss to EWU, rallying from a 20-3 halftime deficit to pull within a touchdown in the second half, and they were driving for a potential go-ahead score in the final minute when WSU senior quarterback Mike Hoke was stripped of the ball near midfield.
"I really liked the way our team responded and came back after halftime," coach Sears said after last Saturday's loss. "They came back with a terrific attitude and energy. We can take a lot of positives from Saturday's game and we need to take those positives and build on them.
"We've got to take this and learn from it and become better. … You take the positives and you build on it, take the deficiencies and correct it. We've got to start faster. … You can't just talk about it, you've got to go do it.
"There are no excuses for us," Sears said. "We need to be more consistent from the start and turn our weaknesses into strengths. We need to tighten things up."
One of Weber State's biggest strengths thus far this season has been the kicking of Park City native Tony Epperson, who leads the nation in punting with an average of 47.7 yards per kick. The junior safety also leads the 'Cats in total tackles with 29.
Hoke (249 yards passing and two touchdowns, plus 50 yards rushing), junior linebacker Anthony Morales (a career-best 16 tackles) and sophomore wide receiver Xavian Johnson (six catches for a career-high 133 yards) also had strong performances against EWU.
One of the Wildcats' most glaring weaknesses, however, has been their inability to put points up on the scoreboard, particularly in the first half. Not only has Weber State been outscored by combined 79-6 in the first halves of its first four games, but the Wildcats are still scoreless in the first quarter and have yet to score a first-half touchdown.
Through its first four games, WSU has been outscored 31-0 in the first quarter, 48-6 in the second quarter and 44-28 in the fourth quarter.
Ah, but, in the third quarter, the Wildcats have actually outscored their opponents by a 36-26 margin. Weber State ranks last in the league in scoring, averaging just 17.5 points per game, and the Wildcats are also last in total defense.
Needless to say, that's not gonna cut it.
And UC Davis definitely doesn't want the Wildcats to get their first win of the season at the Aggies' expense. But they've had struggles of their own, losing three straight since a 41-3 season-opening victory over Azusa Pacific. Much like the Wildcats, a lack of offense has hurt the Aggies during their losing streak, with setbacks to San Jose State (45-13), South Dakota State (12-8) and Cal Poly (28-20).
But they'd love to knock off the Wildcats and give veteran head coach Bob Biggs (141-82-1 overall in his 19-plus seasons at the school, with 16 winning seasons) a memorable victory. He has announced this will be his final season as the Aggies' head coach, and they'd like nothing better than to give him and the school its historic first Big Sky win.
Wildcats on the air
Weber State (0-4, 0-1)
at UC Davis (1-3, 0-1)
Saturday, 7 p.m. (MDT)
Aggie Stadium, Davis, Calif.
TV: none Radio: 1280 AM