OGDEN — It’s Homecoming, but the Wildcats need to get going.
Weber State has been outscored by opponents by a combined score of 49-3 in first quarters and 59-3 in first halves so far, directly correlating to its 0-3 record.
A schedule featuring two FBS schools and two FCS Top 25 programs to start the season hasn’t done Weber State any favors, but the Wildcats have to get out of the gate faster if they hope to stay in the chase with No. 9 ranked Eastern Washington today in their Big Sky Conference opener.
Kickoff is at 6 p.m. at Stewart Stadium.
“We’ve got to get rolling. We’ve got to start fast, we’ve got to execute,” Weber State interim head coach Jody Sears said. “It’s no secret. We’ve got to play at a consistent level. I don’t care who you play, if it’s BYU, McNeese State, East Burlap School of the Blind.”
Weber State fell behind 21-0 to both Fresno State and BYU, then 14-0 to McNeese State. Coming to the plate with two strikes hasn’t helped the Wildcats’ batting average.
“At same time, too, 59-3, if that’s all you focus on, you ain’t going to get nothing accomplished,” Sears said.
“If things don’t go your way, you’ve got to go back to fundamentals,” he said, repeating it for emphasis. “There’s no magic secret, there’s no magic formula, there’s no magic pixie dust — go back to fundamentals. Work a little harder. Work a little smarter. Simplify. Stay positive.”
Eastern Washington (1-1) is coming off a bye week but is ranked in the FCS Top 10 after defeating FBS school Idaho and narrowly losing to another, Washington State of the Pac-12.
Sears and Eastern Washington coach Beau Baldwin know each other well, having been the defensive and offensive coordinators, respectively, who helped former EWU coach Paul Wulff earn shares of Big Sky titles and make FCS playoff appearances in 2004 and 2005.
The Eagles will attack the ’Cats through the air with star receiver Brandon Kaufman and the arm of SMU transfer quarterback Kyle Padron.
Kaufman is fifth in the country in receiving yards, while Padron has thrown for 639 yards in two games despite completing just 44.9 percent of his passes.
Defensive back Willie Okwuonu said Weber State’s defense needs to be ready from the opening kickoff.
“As a secondary, the first couple of games we really struggled. I don’t think we’ve been as prepared as we need to be, watched as much film as we needed. Going into this week, I personally took it as a challenge to make sure I’m ready,” he said. “Honestly, we just need to come out with high energy. We didn’t come out as intense as we needed (in the previous games).”
Beating a Top 10 team would provide a signature victory for a program still looking for its first win as league play begins.
“It would be a big statement, not only in the conference but in the whole FCS. It would be a shock for everybody and give us the boost of confidence we need,” Okwuonu said.
Weber State quarterback Mike Hoke was hurt in last season’s game in Spokane, Wash., against Eastern Washington. After offseason surgery, he’s ready for another try at the Eagles and a chance to get WSU’s offense on track.
Weber State ranks dead last in the Big Sky in scoring, while ranking 10th for third down conversions and last in stopping opponents on third downs.
“It’s real important, no matter who we play, to get that conference win because it helps out so much,” Hoke said. “In our situation, we haven’t won yet, so it would help morale and confidence and everything else that goes along with winning.”
• WSU NOTES: Tevia Tolutau, an All-Big Sky first-team fullback last year, is moving to the offensive line and could see time today at left guard. … Weber State will play its first game without receiver Shaydon Kehano, who was lost for the year with a broken leg suffered late in the McNeese State game last Saturday. Lanny Papanikolas is listed as the starter in Kehano’s place. … Linebacker Luke King is listed as questionable … The Wildcats are 0-3 for the first time since 2007.