CEDAR CITY -- The Wildcats are still holding on to hope for a win to snap their season-long losing streak.
They also need to hold on to the football.
Weber State (0-7, 0-4 Big Sky) enters today's in-state rivalry game against Southern Utah (3-4, 2-2) with a turnover margin of negative-6. The Thunderbirds, on the other hand, are at plus-11, a dangerous disparity for the Wildcats as they look to enter the win column going into the first-ever league contest between the schools.
Southern Utah joined the Big Sky Conference in all sports last July. WSU holds a 14-4 all-time advantage over SUU, but the T-birds have taken four of the past seven games, including last year's 35-28 victory in Ogden.
As for holding on to hope, Sears says his team hasn't given up -- just the opposite.
The 19-14 loss to Sacramento State last week was the closest Weber State has been to victory all season.
"What I see is they're starting to believe in each other, they haven't folded the tents on each other," 'Cats coach Jody Sears said.
"They're continuing to buy in to each other. That locker room is a really, really good place. It's a good environment. At the end of the day, you turn the film on and see how they're playing. Are they playing united, are they playing with energy, are they playing with passion, are they playing for each other? When I watch the film, I see their energy, I see the consistency, so I think they're continuing to believe in the process, they're continuing to believe in each other. They're getting stronger, they're getting better each week. That's where we've got to make sure we keep our focus, getting better each week."
But it hasn't resulted in a win yet. The Wildcats must win today to avoid matching their 0-8 start in 2004, the worst beginning in school history.
Sears said the Wildcats offense must establish a ground game to be able to set up the throwing game.
"That's going to be a huge key. We've got to be able to run the rock, get ourselves in second-and-medium, third-and-short situations where we can consistently get some drives," he said. "I'd like to get a big play in the passing game. We're due for a big play in the passing game. It all starts with that ground game. We've got to get that thing established. We've got capable people, we've got a capable scheme. It's been proven, it just goes back to that consistency thing."
And not giving the ball away.
"That was the first thing we talked about Monday afternoon ... the turnover margin," Sears said. "That was something we've been discussing since Day 1 and now we're staring it right in the face. I really believe if we can come out in the plus this weekend we're going to find ourselves in a position to win this game because of that alone. We've got to continue to stress it.
"We've got to take care of the ball and at the same time, we've got to get the ball back a few more times for our offense."
WSU ranks 10th in the Big Sky in rushing offense and 11th in passing.
Southern Utah defeated Montana last week and features quarterback Brad Sorensen, a BYU transfer who was named the conference's preseason offensive player of the year and is third in the league in passing, fifth in total offense.
Defensively, SUU has intercepted a pass in nine consecutive games.
Thunderbirds coach Ed Lamb said when he watches game film, he watches the offense, defense and special teams separately to get a feel for the opponent. With a different schedule, he believes the Wildcats could have a much better record.
"What I see is a really good football team in Weber State," he said. "I'm sure in many of their games, their players or coaches could point to one or two plays that swung the momentum and ended up being the difference in that game."
* WSU NOTES: Offensive coordinator Matt Hammer played wide receiver and defensive back for Southern Utah, graduating in 2006. ... Sears will celebrate his 45th birthday on Sunday.