Wildcats hope to end losing skid against California teams

Oct 12 2012 - 4:56pm

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The tank was three-quarters full last Friday -- an improvement from the half-tank Weber State played on in previous weeks but not enough fuel to finish.

The winless Wildcats (0-6, 0-3 Big Sky) need to rev the engine for a full four quarters today to stay in the race with Sacramento State and get on track for the second half of the season. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at Hornet Stadium.

The Hornets (4-2, 2-1) have won games against Pac-12 teams in back-to-back seasons, knocking off Oregon State in 2011 and Colorado this year. Sac State has won four of its last five to get off to its best start ever as a Football Championship Subdivision team.

Meanwhile, Weber State is returning to the vicinity of its ugly 37-13 loss Sept. 29 at UC Davis, just down the road from Sac State.

The Wildcats were better at home against Cal Poly last weekend before running out of gas as the Mustangs put the pedal to the metal in the second half. Today marks WSU's last chance to avoid going 0 for 4 against California teams this season.

"I was extremely pleased with the way our kids bounced back after going down to Davis the week prior (when) we were extremely flat," Weber State interim coach Jody Sears said. "I was really pleased with the ways the guys came out ------ a lot of attitude, a lot of energy, a lot of effort. We just need to put four quarters instead of three together, which has been our Achilles heel, with the consistency thing."

Weber State's offense has racked up a lot of yards in the past two weeks without a winning result, running 95 plays for 528 yards compared to 51 plays for 345 yards by Cal Poly in WSU's 45-23 loss. WSU is ranked 13th (last) in the Big Sky in scoring offense (17.7 points per game) and 12th in scoring defense, allowing 38.5 ppg.

Quarterback Mike Hoke threw for a season-high 291 yards and rushed for 51 more versus Cal Poly, but Weber State's offensive line has allowed 23 sacks this season (3.8 sacks per game), the worst in FCS football.

"You've got to look at the guys that we've lost (on the O-line). We lost three starters, for various reasons -- two of them were seniors and one of them was an All-American, (J.C. Oram)," Sears said. "You have to replace three bodies there and we've replaced them with a couple of first-year and second-year guys. You're going to have to take your lumps a little bit, but the thing about it is they're getting better. I think last weekend was a great indication against a really good defense.

"We had 528 yards total offense and yeah, the scoreboard didn't show it, but the kids are getting better."

In comparison, Sac State has only allowed six sacks all year.

Quarterback Garrett Safron rushed for two touchdowns and threw for another to beat Southern Utah, 27-22 last Saturday, while linebacker Jeff Badger is a reigning co-defensive player of the week for his game-saving interception against the Thunderbirds.

Sacramento State coach Marshall Sperbeck isn't discounting Weber State despite its disappointing season so far.

"They've had a tough schedule. They played BYU, Fresno State, they've played three ranked FCS teams," he said. "They're a very good football team, it's just a matter of time before they get things going in the right direction and we certainly hope that that's not this weekend."

Wildcats junior linebacker Anthony Morales leads the Big Sky and is tied for 11th in the nation in tackles, but WSU will play its first full game without punter/safety Tony Epperson, who is out for potentially the remainder of the season with a torn MCL. Epperson still ranks first in the nation in punting for now and was one of the team's top tacklers.

While Weber State is 0-4 for the first time since 2004, Sears says 'Cats coaches need to be encouraging as they try to engineer a breakthrough for their program.

"We're making progress. The coaches did a great job, our captains and leaders did a great job last week leading up to (Cal Poly)," Sears said. "We've just got to keep getting better each week and each day and that's what we're doing."

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