OGDEN — Weber State interim coach Jody Sears tries to look on the bright side, even in a difficult season, but the cowboy from the Palouse has got some grit to him.
Though the Pullman, Wash., native often emphasizes the positive, he says he is tough on his team.
“I’m proud as daylights of them,” Sears said last week after the Wildcats lost to Montana by three points, “but by no means am I going to be a softie with them, like everything is milk and cookies. Sometimes I think, as positive as I am, people might think he’s probably too soft, he’s too nice a guy. Why don’t you come to our practice, why don’t you miss a treatment and come see how nice I am? It’s about discipline, it’s about leadership and it’s about building confidence. Sometimes, by building confidence, that means sticking foot in fanny.”
With a 1-8 record, 1-5 in the Big Sky, the Wildcats need that discipline, toughness and confidence as much as ever to finish strong, even as their schedule eases up.
Weber State kicks off its final home game of the season today, Senior Day, at 1:30 p.m. against Northern Colorado (3-6, 2-4 Big Sky), then ends the season next week in Pocatello against Idaho State (1-8, 0-6).
Thirteen seniors will be playing for WSU for the final time at what will likely be a snow-covered Stewart Stadium: Ged Carrington, Trifon Gochis, Jarret Gooden, Mike Hoke, David James, Brian Jankowski, Lanny Papanikolas, Kris Parham, Trevor Pletcher, Adam Sagapolutele-White, Antwain Stutson, Tytan Timoteo and C.J. Tuckett.
With two games to go, Sears said the state of the team at this point “is where we’ve been pretty much all year. I know the kids and the seniors are extremely disappointed we’ve lost a handful of one-score games this season, but the morale is good. The kids have got a great look in their eye and it shows up on Saturday with their energy, their passion. We need to make a play or two here, a play or two there,” he said. “It’s just making sure that those guys keep believing in what we’re doing. Their attitude is great, so the state of the team is awesome. I keep telling them, don’t go week on us now, keep moving forward, keep doing what you’ve been doing and they have. For that, I’m extremely proud of them.”
The Wildcats have never lost to the Bears in six meetings. Weber State held on for a wild, four-overtime victory over Northern Colorado at home in 2010 and beat the bears 45-21 in Greeley, Colo., last season.
Northern Colorado was winless a year ago in coach Earnest Collins Jr.’s first season, but the Bears are feeling better after their first road win since 2010, a come-from-behind upset of Portland State last Saturday.
Both teams will be looking to return to their special teams successes from last week: Weber State freshman Cordero Dixon took his first-ever kick return 100 yards to the house in the fourth quarter against Montana and Northern Colorado receiver/returner Dominic Gunn, the reigning Big Sky special teams co-player of the week, scored on an 83-yard punt return at Portland State.
Junior linebacker Anthony Morales showed the toughness the Wildcats need with a career-high 23 tackles against Montana, the sixth-most tackles in a game in school history.
Sears said his first season as a head coach has been a learning experience for everyone: himself, his staff and his players. Coming into the season as an unexpected April replacement for John L. Smith, he was concerned the team could fracture or splinter.
“That’s why I’m so proud of the guys, they haven’t (fractured),” he said. “That’s one thing, me being who I am, and not trying to be somebody different and hit a panic button or anything like that, but just to stay consistent with the plan, stay consistent with the message, stay consistent with the message, with our teaching, with our day-to-day operations, eventually that consistency, with our plays, hopefully will just continue to roll over.”