Weber State football: Wildcats’ defense to be tested against UC Davis

Thursday , September 21, 2017 - 5:00 AM

BRANDON GARSIDE, Standard-Examiner Staff

Big Sky Conference play begins this week for Weber State football, which hosts UC Davis on Saturday night in the annual homecoming game.

With the best pass defense in the Big Sky (151.3 yards allowed per game), the Wildcat secondary will be put to the test. UC Davis sophomore quarterback Jake Maier has been turning heads in his first year in the conference.

The transfer from Long Beach City College currently leads the Big Sky in passing yards per game at 314.3, is second in pass efficiency with a rating of 178.1 and leads the Big Sky in total offense with 326.7 yards per game.

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Surely a candidate for Big Sky Newcomer of the Year, Maier has been been a surprise to some in the conference, but not to Weber State head coach Jay Hill.

“We liked him in junior college and he was a guy that we recruited and looked at very closely,” Hill said. “I thought he was a great player. He was a great get for UC Davis and he’s playing that way. He brings a lot to the table ... Bottom line, they’ve got a good player and he’s done a good job for their offense.”

First year Aggie head coach Dan Hawkins said he and his staff had their eyes on Maier early in the recruiting process, and is fortunate to have him at UC Davis.

Junior wide receiver Keelan Doss is on the receiving end of most of Maier’s passes and leads the Big Sky in receiving yards per game at 115.7, and is second in receptions per game with 6.3.

“He’s on the top of the league for sure,” Hill said. “He’s been that way for a couple of years now. He’s a legit, big-time guy that we’re going to have to make sure we take care of. They’ve got enough weapons across the board that you’ve got to handle them.”

While the Aggies were picked to finish third-to-last in both the coaches and media preseason conference polls, the team has won two straight games. Those wins came against San Diego and on the road against Portland State.

Hawkins, a UC Davis alumnus, is a veteran coach that led Boise State from 2001-05 to a record of 56-11, including only three losses in the Western Athletic Conference in that stretch. He also coached at Colorado from 2006-10.

“Coach Hawkins has those guys playing at an extremely high level coming off two big wins where they looked very impressive, so we’ve got our work cut out for us,” Hill said. “We’ve got to play a great game, but it’s nice to be back at home.”

Hawkins reciprocates the challenge entering Saturday’s game, and says his team will have to play a near-perfect game to have a shot at winning.

“This is one of the best teams in the country in all three phases, certainly in defense,” Hawkins said about Weber State. “They have probably one of the best corners in the country. They’re solid on the back end. They’re a big, physical group up front.

“They do plenty of things to give you problems every down, in many facets. Hopefully we can manage to get a first down along the way.”

Contact sports reporter Brandon Garside at bgarside@standard.net, on Twitter @BrandonGarside and on Facebook.com/BrandonGarsideSE.

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