SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Halfway through its season, Weber State football is still looking for a launching point.
The Wildcats (1-5, 0-2 Big Sky) thought they had it in a season-opening win over Stephen F. Austin at home, but they've struggled and limped through the rest of their schedule to enter today's Big Sky Conference contest at Cal Poly (2-3, 1-0) dragging a five-game losing streak.
Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at Spanos Stadium.
The Mustangs want nothing more than to run wild with their triple-option offense.
Cal Poly coach Tim Walsh, who spent 14 years in the Big Sky at Portland State, is in his fifth season with the Mustangs, who joined the league as an football-only member last year.
Walsh was named Big Sky coach of the year in 2012 when Cal Poly went 9-3 (7-1 Big Sky) and shared the conference title as a newcomer.
Cal Poly was ranked 18th in the FCS poll last week but dropped out of the rankings after fumbling the ball five times in a 24-10 loss to Yale, the first-ever meeting between an Ivy League team and a Big Sky school.
The Mustangs are switching horses midstream by naming Dano Graves as their third starting quarterback this season.
Graves, a sophomore transfer from Air Force, will make his first start tonight in place of Chris Brown, who is ninth in the league in rushing (67.2 yards per game) but has been playing with an injured hip. Mustangs QB Vince Moraga suffered a season-ending injury in the second week of the season.
Kristaan Ivory is Cal Poly's top threat out of the backfield, averaging 116.8 ypg on the ground, best in the Big Sky. He also averages 6.5 yards per carry and ranks third in the conference in all-purpose yards.
Weber State coach Jody Sears describes Ivory with a wishlist for what every coach wants in a running back.
"Very productive, strong, quick, great vision," Sears said. "We faced him last year and he scored on us a couple of times (in Cal Poly's 45-23 win in Ogden). .... A tough, hard-nosed kid, as good as any of the guys we've seen."
The Mustangs' triple option is a true triple threat, Sears said.
"When you talk about the triple option, you're talking about three options, so from a defensive standpoint you've got to be very simplistic so you can cover all of those options.
"I've been there, done that against this type of outfit before and if you try to do too much, then you really end up hurting yourself. We've got to play disciplined, we've got to play extremely hard and passionate and we've got to play really consistent in the tackling."
Weber State's biggest challenge in bringing down the triple option is doing it without their top two linebackers, Anthony Morales and Luke King. Morales is listed as a game-time decision with a hamstring injury; King is expected to miss two to three weeks with a knee sprain.
"Those guys are going to be missed," Sears said.
So he went and found some help for the linebackers corps. Karl Finai, who returned from an academic suspension prior to the Eastern Washington game, started his junior season listed as a defensive tackle after playing running back last year. Against EWU, he carried the ball six times for 26 yards.
Now, he's a linebacker.
"We've put Karl Finai back there to help Roman Valenzuela. I love Roman, I have all the confidence in the world (in him)," Sears said.
Weber State also got more help back when senior center Tyson Tiatia and senior kicker Shaun McClain were reinstated this week after a six-game academic suspension. Both will return to starting roles, Sears said.
WSU freshman quarterback Austin Chipoletti is coming off his best passing performance to date, completing 17 of 27 passes for 140 yards at Eastern Washington, but continuing drives has been a problem for Weber State, let alone ending them in the end zone.
The Wildcats' third-down conversion rate has been third-rate -- WSU converted just 6 of 18 against Eastern Washington (33.3 percent) and that was the 'Cats' best third-down percentage yet. For the season, they average 25.5 percent, ranking last in the Big Sky and 114th in the nation.
Short offensive drives are also rough on Weber State's defense, which allows opponents to convert 44.3 percent on third downs, second-worst in the league.
Contact sports writer Roy Burton at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @RoyBurtonSE.