Before Weber State faced Cal Poly on Saturday, second-year Wildcats coach Jody Sears was asked how he felt about his team at the halfway point of the season.
Record-wise, he is not satisfied -- "Obviously," he said.
Sears felt better about other measurements of progress.
"The underlying things of how our mentality, how our culture is evolving, I really like," he said. "How our leadership is evolving, I love it. This team is slowly evolving into a player-led team. We're getting a lot of good experience for a lot of young guys who I'm very proud of. They've been very strong. They've shown a lot of good resolve, as well as the older guys. Culture-wise, mentality-wise, I love where we are. I really do. Obviously, statistics-wise and record-wise, it's not good enough. That's the message to the kids as well."
Saturday's 47-0 blowout loss to Cal Poly didn't help, record-wise or statistics-wise, as Weber State (1-6, 0-3 Big Sky) dropped its sixth consecutive game.
"The (players) come to work, they practice hard and the thing that I'm trying to teach them now is they can't confuse effort with results," Sears said Friday while preparing to travel to San Luis Obispo, Calif. "The standard is playing hard. The standard is working hard, The standard is playing with that championship energy every single day, that's the standard. But what they've also got to equate is they've got to make plays. We have to make more plays. We have to win more snaps. That's evolving. When you have a fair bit of youth, that can be a time-(consuming) process. There's no quick fix. It's process over outcome."
Time may not be on Sears' side.
After serving as the interim head coach in 2012, Sears signed a three-year contract extension after last season with certain performance clauses. If Sears does not win four games in 2013 or six in 2014, Weber State's administration has the option to release him without further compensation.
Five games remain in the 2013 season -- Montana State, at Portland State, Southern Utah, at Montana and Idaho State.
"We'll go back to the drawing board, keep our heads up and keep pressing on," Sears said after losing to Cal Poly.
Finai puzzle piece
Karl Finai returned to academic eligibility before the Sacramento State game in Week 5.
Finai, a junior from Kearns, played running back for his first two seasons before being asked to move to defensive line prior to the season.
Against Eastern Washington, Finai was back at running back, rushing six times for 26 yards.
With three of Weber State's top four tacklers out with injury (linebackers Anthony Morales and Luke King and safety Chris Wheeler), Finai made an appearance as the starting linebacker against Cal Poly, making five tackles.
"We threw him into a role he hasn't had to play in several years. The last time he had to play linebacker was probably high school," Sears said.
And when Morales and King return, who knows where Finai will show up next.
Saturday's game also marked a return to eligibility for senior center Tyson Tiatia, who started the game.
"I am so happy for him," Sears said Friday. "I can't wait to watch him play tomorrow. He brings a lot of passion and energy to our team and our offense."
Weber State placekicker Shaun McClain was also eligible for the first time this season, but did not attempt a field goal.
Trailing 47-0, the Wildcats drove the ball down to Cal Poly's 21-yard line at the end of the fourth quarter. It was their deepest drive and only their second foray into Mustangs' territory in the game, but they allowed the clock to run out without attempting to bring on the field goal team.
Weber State hadn't been shut out since 2009 or blanked by a Big Sky foe since 2002.
Contact sports writer Roy Burton at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @RoyBurtonSE.