Weber State football: football team opens season Saturday at Fresno State

By Paul Grua

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 28 2012 6:23 p.m. MDT

After a turbulent offseason, the Weber State football team will kick off action for the 2012 season this Saturday, Sept. 1, when the Wildcats play at Fresno State in Bulldog Stadium.

Saturday’s game will be heard live on AM-1280 KZNS “The Zone” with Carl Arky, the 2011 Utah Sportscaster of the Year, calling all the action. Former Wildcat standout Ty Sparrow will provide color commentary. Saturday’s game will not be televised, but the game can be seen online for a fee. Live video streaming of the game will be available at gobulldogs.com. That website will also have live stats of the game.

WILDCATS READY TO START 2012 SEASON

After three weeks of fall camp the Wildcats will open the 51st season of Division I football this Saturday. Weber State returns 35 lettermen and 14 starters off last year’s team. Eleven players that earned Big Sky All-Conference honors last season also return, including sophomore fullback Tevia Tolutau who was named to the first team. Junior running back Josh Booker, senior defensive end Trevor Pletcher and senior offensive lineman Tytan Timoteo all return after earning second team All-Conference honors a year ago. Six Wildcats return after earning Honorable Mention All-Conference honors last season. That list includes junior safety Tony Epperson, senior quarterback Mike Hoke, senior tight end Brian Jankowski, junior wide receiver Shaydon Kehano, junior linebacker Anthony Morales, junior safety Willie Okwuonu and junior center Tyson Tiatia. Also returning for the Wildcats is senior running back C.J. Tuckett who rushed for over 460 yards and eight touchdowns in Weber State’s final two games last season. Following a 5-6 overall record and a 5-3 mark in Big Sky play last season, head coach Ron McBride retired after seven seasons at Weber State. McBride totaled a 43-38 overall record with the ‘Cats and led Weber State to the 2008 Big Sky title and two trips to the FCS Playoffs. In December, Weber State hired former Wildcat and longtime college football coach John L. Smith to lead the Wildcats. Smith coached Weber State through spring 2012 camp but left in late April to take the head coaching job at the University of Arkansas. On April 26, Weber State hired Jody Sears as head coach for the 2012 season. The Wildcats were picked to finish sixth by the coaches and seventh by the media in the new-look Big Sky Conference preseason polls.

FIRST SEASON FOR HEAD COACH JODY SEARS

Saturday’s game will be the first time as head coach for Jody Sears who brings nearly 20 years of coaching experience to Weber State. Sears joined the WSU staff in January as the defensive coordinator and was named head coach in April. He is the 10th head coach in Weber State history. Sears will also be the defensive coordinator and coach the safeties for the Wildcats. Before coming to Weber State he spent the past three seasons at Washington State where he spent the last three seasons as the co-defensive coordinator with the Cougars under head coach Paul Wulff, a former college teammate at Washington State. He is no stranger to the Big Sky Conference as he spent five seasons (2003-07) as the defensive coordinator at Eastern Washington, also under Paul Wulff. During his time with the Eagles he coached safeties, linebackers and defensive backs. In his five seasons at Eastern Washington he coached seven players to Big Sky All-Conference honors. Prior to his time at Eastern Washington Sears spent three seasons (2000-02) as an assistant coach at Army where he coached cornerbacks and the defensive line. He also spent time as an assistant coach at St. Ambrose University, an NAIA school in Davenport, Iowa and Iowa State. Sears played football at Washington State where he was a two-year letterwinner with the Cougars after walking on as a wide receiver. He played under head coaches Jim Walden, Dennis Erickson and former Weber State head coach Mike Price. He graduated from Washington State in 1991 and received his master’s degree from Iowa State in 1996. Sears, 44, is a native of Pullman, Washington. He and his wife Molly are the parents of five children.

TEAM CAPTAINS

Coach Sears has selected four team captains for the upcoming season. Mike Hoke, Brian Jankowski, Anthony Morales and Trevor Pletcher will serve as the Wildcat team captains for the year. Combined the four players have appeared in 101 games for Weber State.

2012 SCHEDULE

The Wildcats will kickoff the 2012 season on Sept. 1 at Fresno State and play the next week at BYU. It will mark the fifth straight season the ‘Cats have faced two FBS teams in the same season. Weber State will open the home season on Sept. 15 against McNeese State. WSU will open Big Sky Conference play on Sept. 22 against Eastern Washington, which is also Homecoming at Weber State. WSU will also face home conference games with Cal Poly, Montana and Northern Colorado and will play road Big Sky games at UC Davis, Sacramento State, Southern Utah and Idaho State. This season the Wildcats will not play Montana State, North Dakota, Northern Arizona or Portland State.

WILDCATS IN SEASON OPENERS

Weber State is 26-24 all-time in season opening games. The ‘Cats have lost the season opener in five of the last six seasons including a narrow 35-32 loss at Wyoming last year. When opening the season on the road the Wildcats are 4-18 all-time and have lost 10 straight. The last time the Wildcats won a season opener on the road was a 1990 win at Southern Utah

ANOTHER FBS START FOR WILDCATS

For the fourth straight season and the sixth in the last six years the Wildcats will open the year with an FBS road game. Weber State played at Wyoming to start the 2009 and 2011 seasons and played at Boston College to begin the 2010 season. This season also marks the fifth straight season the ‘Cats will face two FBS opponents as they also play at BYU next week.

WEBER STATE ALL-TIME AGAINST FBS TEAMS

In 50 seasons of playing football at the four-year level, Weber State is 3-46 against FBS teams. Weber State beat Utah State in 1978 and beat Nevada twice (1992 and 1993), the first two years Nevada was playing at the Division I-A level. The Wildcats have lost 23 straight games to FBS opponents.

PRESEASON ALL-CONFERENCE

Two Weber State players have been named to the Big Sky Preseason All-Conference team. Senior offensive lineman Tytan Timoteo and sophomore full back Tevia Tolutau were named to the league which was selected by members of the media and league sports information directors. Timoteo earned second team All-Big Sky honors as a junior last season starting in all 11 games last season. In his three seasons with the Wildcats, Timoteo has played in 30 career games. The Waianae, Hawaii native has started every game in each of the last two seasons for Weber State. Tolutau, a native of Provo, Utah, returns for his sophomore season at fullback after starting every game with Weber State last season as a true freshman. He earned first team All-Big Sky honors last year and is the only returning Wildcat that earned first team honors last season. He was also the only freshman in the conference that was named to the first team last season. All 13 Big Sky schools had at least one player on the team. Montana State led all schools with six selections. Southern Utah senior quarterback Brad Sorenson was named as the league preseason Offensive MVP, and Montana State senior linebacker Jody Owens was named Defensive MVP.

MIKE HOKE BACK AT FULL STRENGTH AT QUARTERBACK

Weber State senior quarterback Mike Hoke will be back under center for the Wildcats this week. Hoke, a native of Kailua, Hawaii, earned Big Sky Honorable Mention All-Conference honors last year in his first season as a starter at Weber State. Hoke threw for a season-high 314 yards and added two touchdowns in WSU’s season opener at Wyoming. He started 10 games for the Wildcats and finished the year sixth in the league in passing at 208 yards per game. He was also third in pass efficiency and seventh in total offense. He was 12th in the nation in pass efficiency at 150.2. Hoke finished the season 164 for 262 passing for 2,080 yards and 19 touchdowns. He also rushed for 130 yards and six touchdowns. He did all that while battling a separated shoulder that forced him to miss one game. Hoke had shoulder surgery in the offseason and did not participate in spring ball but is healthy and at full strength beginning this season. After three seasons at Weber State, Hoke has 2,499 career passing yards and 22 touchdowns. He ranks 17th in WSU history in career passing yards.

NEW LOOK TO THE BIG SKY CONFERENCE

The 2012 season will mark a new look to the Big Sky Conference as four new schools have joined the league. Cal Poly, North Dakota, Southern Utah and UC Davis have all joined the league in football, bringing the total to 13 schools and maintaining the Big Sky as one of the top FCS football conferences in the nation. Two-time defending Big Sky Conference football co-champion Montana State was picked first by the media, and the coaches in the preseason polls. The Bobcats have gone 7-1 in conference each of the past two seasons and advanced to the playoffs and earned seven first-place votes in the coaches’ poll and a total of 136 points. In the media poll, the Bobcats received 30 of 40 first-place votes and 502 total points. Eastern Washington, the 2010 Division I National Champion, was selected second in both polls, while perennial Football Championship Subdivision power Montana was tabbed third. Portland State was selected fourth, while league newcomer Cal Poly was selected fifth. Eastern Washington garnered four first-place votes and 131 total points in the coaches’ poll. In the media poll, the Eagles earned three first-place votes and 453 total points. Montana received five first-place media votes and 442 total points. In the coaches’ poll, Montana garnered 126 total points and one first-place vote.

50 YEARS OF DIVISION I ATHLETICS

The 2012-13 Weber State Athletics season marks 50 years since Weber State became a four-year institution and began athletics competition at the Division I level. Events and festivities are planned throughout the year to celebrate 50 years of Division I athletics at Weber State.

TV TIME

The Wildcats have two games on television this season. Weber State’s game at BYU on Sept. 8 will be seen across the nation on BYUtv. WSU’s home game against Montana on Nov. 3 will be televised live on ROOT Sports, a part of the Big Sky Conference’s new TV contract with ROOT.

LOOKING AHEAD

The Wildcats will be back on the road but remain in the state of Utah next week when they play at BYU on Saturday, Sept. 8, at 1:00 p.m. It will mark just the third game ever between the two schools and the first since 1979. Saturday’s game will be televised nationally on BYUtv. The Wildcats will open the home season on Sept. 15 against McNeese State.

Paul Grua is the Director of Athletic Communications at Weber State University.

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