First, the good news, or rather, the positive information.
Weber State had some nice moments in the fourth quarter of Saturday's 27-21 loss to Southern Utah at Stewart Stadium. The Wildcats' defense made some key stops and their offense scored a couple of late touchdowns to make the game entertaining, though certainly hard to swallow for those of the purple-wearing persuasion. After all, the loss extended Weber State's losing streak to nine in a row and dropped their record this season to 1-9 overall, 0-6 within the Big Sky Conference.
Now, the bad news, or rather, the stuff that needs to be said.
On a day in which freshman quarterback Austin Chipoletti passed for 263 yards and a touchdown and rushed 11 times for another 43 yards, there was a massive stain on WSU's stat sheet.
Penalties: 11 for 124 yards.
That's just not acceptable. It's not acceptable for a winning team and it's definitely not for a team struggling to pick up its second win in 10 games.
Crowds at Stewart Stadium have been thinning for a while now and even among those who attend the games there is scoffing and joking about the 'Cats' struggles. Fair or not, the complaints and, worse still, the indifference are reflections of the frustration many in the local community feel toward the WSU football program.
And now, 11 penalties -- many of them of the 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct variety -- for 124 yards in a seven-point loss to an instate conference rival? That's ridiculous. That's no way to earn a victory, no way to end a losing streak and no way to stem the tide of apathy.
Admittedly, I'm oversimplifying the issue here. There is, unquestionably, a wide variety of additions and subtractions, bad breaks and lucky bounces, that go into a loss like the one the 'Cats suffered on Saturday. It would be naive and largely unfair to pin it all on those confounded penalties.
And yet ... 11 penalties for 124 yards in game WSU could have and very likely should have won? In a game that was important for a number of reasons, not the least of which was its ability to finally put an end to a troubling losing streak?
"The personal fouls is what killed us today," senior linebacker Anthony Morales said.
To his credit, Morales didn't back away from his role in those 11 penalties. He was whistled for a personal foul after teammate Deaon'tae Florence's interception in the second quarter.
"We had some late hits and there was some yappin' going on," Morales said. "It was on us. We can't be doing that in close games like this."
As he spoke, Morales perused the stat sheet and quickly saw the stain.
"We had 124 yards in penalties, 11 for 124," he said. "That right there kills you."
Play in the game was chippy, befitting that of a rivalry game. There was some physical play, some trash talking and some pushing and shoving after plays had ended.
To be fair, some calls could have gone either way. For example, the 'Cats were called for a hitting a SUU player after he'd gone out of bounds. Sometimes that call is obvious; sometimes it's the result of a defensive player simply not knowing exactly where he is on the field when he makes the hit. It's not always reasonable to expect a player to apply the brakes so quickly, but hey, those are the breaks of the game.
"For the most part it was just close plays that we have to be smarter about," Morales said.
After the game, WSU coach Jody Sears said he was "extremely disappointed with the penalties." But he also said he was pleased with the heart, passion and energy his guys displayed.
"They want to win so bad, it's right there," he said. "They want to reach out and grab it."
I don't doubt that Sears believes in his players, nor do I doubt his appreciation for the desire they showed. It's his job to stand up for them and he's good about doing just that. But still ... still the 'Cats were undisciplined on Saturday and it cost them the game, and ultimately that's the head coach's responsibility.