MISSOULA, Mont. — The Weber State Wildcats (1-9) are headed back on the road to take on yet another Top 10 opponent, the No. 7 Montana Grizzlies (8-2), as they are set to tackle their fourth Top 10 opponent in the nation this season.
Weber State and Montana couldn't be having more opposite seasons. The ’Cats are losers of nine straight, and are coming off a heartbreaking 27-21 home loss to their in-state rival, Southern Utah. Meanwhile, Montana has won five of its last six games and 13-straight home games against WSU.
Penalties and turnovers proved to be the overall difference maker against Southern Utah as the Wildcats committed 11 penalties for a season-high 124 yards and coughed up two turnovers in the loss.
"We played so hard and they want to win so bad," Weber State head coach Jody Sears said of last week's loss. "We just have to be smarter. We played with a lot of heart and passion, we just can't make mistakes."
Weber State managed to total 350 yards of offense, despite failing to establish an effective running game. The Wildcats could only muster up 87 yards on the ground against a tough, Southern Utah defense, but should be able to establish the run against a mediocre Montana defense Saturday afternoon.
True freshman quarterback Austin Chipoletti continued to improve last week and will need to have another impressive performance to lead the Wildcats past the Grizzlies.
Chipoletti threw for 263 yards and a season-high three touchdowns, two of which went to fellow true freshman wide-out Cameron Livingston, to lead the Weber State offense.
Livingston, who caught five passes for 87 yards and two touchdowns against SUU, leads the Wildcat receivers with four touchdowns this season. Livingston and Erik Walker are Chipoletti's favorite targets and will need to show up against Montana.
WSU's defense is making strides to improve its performance, and the results are slowly starting to show. Last week, the Wildcats recorded a season-high three sacks and have had five sacks in the last two games.
Also, junior transfer Deon'tae Florence has made his presence known on the field since arriving in Ogden from Boise State. Florence picked off his fourth pass of the season against SUU and now leads the Big Sky in interceptions.
Weber State assistant coach and offensive coordinator Robin Pflugrad, who was the head coach at Montana from 2010-11 and spent 10 years as an assistant coach with the Grizzlies, will make his return to Montana Saturday afternoon.
The Wildcats will need to cut down on their costly turnovers and penalties and get their running game going to defeat the Grizzlies. With an emerging quarterback and an improving defense, the ’Cats will have to minimize their mistakes to make their last road trip of the season successful.
"We did a lot of good things Saturday (against Southern Utah), and we just have to stay committed and continue to improve," Sears added.
The Wildcats and the No. 7 Grizzlies kick off at 12:05 p.m. Saturday afternoon at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
Ryan Love is a full-time student at the University of Utah studying communications and has been a part-time sports reporter and scoreboarder for the Deseret News since Oct. 2012.
Follow him on Twitter @RLove7724