Wildcats to start freshman vs. Hornets

Sep 28 2013 - 12:45am

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OGDEN -- Homecoming week for Weber State this year means finally playing at home.

In front of a friendly crowd tonight at Stewart Stadium, the Wildcats hope to end a three-game losing streak that coincides with three difficult road games.

Kickoff is at 6 p.m. against Sacramento State, which will not be friendly. The angry Hornets are looking to create some buzz for themselves after losing a heartbreaker in overtime last week to Southern Utah.

Sac State also needed overtime to beat NAIA school Southern Oregon the previous week, and like WSU, has a pair of losses to FBS schools. With identical 1-3 records, both teams need a confidence booster to build on for the rest of the Big Sky Conference season.

Both will also be playing their first league game; Sacramento State's meeting with Southern Utah was officially a non-conference meeting.

True freshman quarterback Austin Chipoletti will start for the Wildcats for the third consecutive week; senior Jordan Adamczyk, who entered the season as the starter and helped WSU to a season-opening 50-40 win over Stephen F. Austin, is also expected to play early.

Luke King had a career-high 11 tackles in Weber State's 43-6 loss to McNeese State, while fellow linebacker Anthony Morales moved into the school's top 10 career tackles list.

After allowing 55.8 points per game through four weeks, dead last in the Big Sky Conference, the 'Cats are looking for defensive improvement. So are the Hornets, who rank just one spot ahead (39.8 ppg).

King said it's not one thing Weber State needs to fix on defense -- it's everything.

"A lot of it is, we've just got to do our job. There's times where 10 guys are doing their job and one guy isn't, out of their gap or something. They'll gash us there and go for a big run or pass, that's what hurts us. Everybody just needs to be accountable for what they do," King said.

"There's not really one thing we can really do, it's a bunch of things, little things, to bring it all together. Some days we may be good at tackling, the next day we may not, so it's just being consistent in what we do all the time and that will make the difference."

Neither team is lighting it up offensively, either. WSU averages 17.2 points per game (11th in league), and after scoring 50 in its season opener, has only scored 19 points in the last three weeks combined.

Weber State coach Jody Sears doesn't hesitate to answer what the Wildcats' offense needs most, repeating it for emphasis.

"Consistency. Consistency in our execution," he said. "That's been the big theme since last weekend. We started fast, we started good, we've got to play consistent."

Sac State averages 21.0 points per game, ninth in the Big Sky.

"They're balanced on offense," Sears said. "They've got a good little running back and a good wide receiver in Morris Norrise. He hit us on a couple last year."

Norrise is a preseason all-conference wideout.

Senior running back/returner Ezekiel Graham is quick and shifty. "He's got good explosiveness. He's a good hard runner and he's got great vision," Sears said. Graham, who led all junior college players in all-purpose yards in 2011, ranks third in the Big Sky in all-purpose yards (138.0 ypg) and fourth in rushing average (75.8 ypg).

Sac State quarterback Garrett Safron set a school record with seven touchdown passes against Southern Oregon.

"He's a good player, can scramble around and make things happen, extend plays," Sears said. Against WSU last season in Sacramento, Safron completed 21 of 26 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns, one to Graham. WSU scored on a touchdown pass from Mike Hoke to Erik Walker with just under four minutes to go but the Hornets held on for a 19-14 victory.

"We know that the past three teams we've faced, they've all been really good teams," King said. "That will help us get a lot better. Going against the best is going to make you better. Hopefully it will show this week, going against somebody that's maybe, according to the rankings, isn't quite as good."

In eight series meetings in Ogden, Sacramento State has never won.

* WSU NOTES: Defensive tackle Karl Finai, one of eight Wildcats suspended prior to the season for academic issues, is now eligible to play. Tyson Tiatia, Shaun McClain, Siamani Harris, Marquel Holmes, Devonte Johnson, Chase Nakamura and Zane Smith are still being held out. ...

Neither Weber State nor Sacramento State has made a field goal through the first four games. WSU is one of only two teams to play four games without even attempting one; Sac State is 0 for 5, including a 45-yarder in overtime that would have won the Southern Utah game.

Contact sports writer Roy Burton at 801-625-4260, rburton@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @RoyBurtonSE.

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