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New turf ... new attitude for Weber State
Whether history is on their side or against them, the Wildcats are concerned only with the here and now.
Last week’s blowout loss to Utah State? Over and done. In the past.
No. 20 Sacramento State has never won a game in Ogden? Weber State is focused on making sure it doesn’t happen today.
Kickoff between the Hornets and Wildcats is at 6 p.m. in Weber State’s home opener, Big Sky Conference opener and first game on the newly installed turf field at Stewart Stadium.
The Wildcats are eager for an opportunity to erase last week’s 54-17 loss to Utah State.
“What you’ve got to do is put it behind you,” WSU coach Ron McBride said. “We didn’t show them the film. We worked on Sac State. If I thought it would be conducive for this particular team, I would have showed them the second half of that (USU) film so they could be embarrassed about what they didn’t do, but I didn’t think, with this team being so young, that that would be a good purpose.”
McBride takes a similar approach to reading anything into the Hornets’ futility so far at Stewart Stadium. Sacramento State, which joined the Big Sky Conference in 1996, is 0-7 all-time in Ogden.
“I don’t worry about what the past is. You just worry about the present,” he said.
Sacramento State (1-1) made the Big Sky Conference proud in Week 1 with a 29-28 overtime win over Pac-12 school Oregon State but was disappointed last week by a 35-14 loss to future league foe Southern Utah.
Fifth-year Sac State coach Marshall Sperbeck picked up his first win over the Wildcats in 2010 but he’s still looking for his first road win over WSU.
Senior quarterback Jeff Fleming was a late transfer making his first Big Sky start last season when he led Sac State to a late touchdown and a 24-17 win over the Wildcats in Sacramento. Weber State trailed 14-0 in the second quarter in that game, but tied it up at 17-all before Bryan Hilliard punched in the game-winning touchdown for the Hornets with 3:23 remaining.
With a year under his belt in the Sacramento State system, Fleming is expected to be one of the top signal callers in the Big Sky Conference. Hilliard, now a senior, torched the ‘Cats for 146 yards on the ground in last year’s game, an area of concern again for a WSU team that allowed 440 rushing yards to Utah State last week.
After two losses to Football Bowl Subdivision teams, senior linebacker Mo Neal said the Wildcats are ready for their Big Sky Conference opener and to turn their attention to teams on their own Championship Subdivision level.
“There are 12 games in the season. Because it’s so early in the season, you can’t harp on the past. You can’t let the past predict our future. That’s what the coaches (and team leaders) have stressed to us,” Neal said. “Even though we’re an (FCS) team playing (FBS) schools, we did show something different from last year. We did compete. Even though the games didn’t come out in our favor, we did have some bright spots. Playing (FBS) schools, going back to our conference now, it should help us more, have us more prepared.”
“It’s like a little brother fighting a big brother all the time: Once he starts fighting kids his own size, he will do better.”
A chance to get started right in the Big Sky will be a motivation for the Wildcats.
“Your mindset is a lot different. There’s more at stake with these games than (FBS losses to Wyoming and Utah State),” Neal said. “I don’t want to make it seem like those games didn’t mean anything, because they did, but these games are conference games and are a lot more important to our university and to our players.”
WSU coaches were considering a redshirt year for freshman tailback Barrinton Collins but decided to let him play in what turned out to be a disastrous loss to Utah State.
The only thing you can do with the past is learn from it, Collins said as he prepares for his first conference contest.
“When you lose a game, you can’t go back and change anything. You’ve just got to learn from it and that’s what we did,” he said. “We fixed a couple of things so we could come out here and handle business. It opened up our eyes a lot, losing that way. In the first half, we were giving it to them, we were actually hanging with them. The second half, we just died out. Basically we’ve just got to learn how to finish. I believe we’re going to do that this game.”
Weber State’s defensive front took a blow when starting defensive end Gabe Bowers, a 6-foot-3, 265 pound right end from Salt Lake City, underwent surgery this week after tearing a ligament in his left wrist during the Utah State game.
* INJURY REPORT: Sophomore starting left cornerback Robbie Diamond, who was supposed to make his season debut this week, reinjured his elbow this week and is out again today, though junior wide receiver Erik Walker should return from a knee problem that has kept him out until now.
Freshman tailback Tanner Hinds also has a banged-up knee and is questionable for today’s game. Tight end Brian Jankowski is doubtful with an ankle injury.
By Roy Burton, Standard-Examiner