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As Weber State preps for Utah, Hill calls FBS vs. FCS contests ‘good for the game’

By Brett Hein - | Aug 31, 2021

Matt Herp/Standard-Examiner

Weber State battles Southern Utah on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017, at WSU's Elizabeth Dee Shaw Stewart Stadium in Ogden.

Weber State football's game at Utah to open the fall 2021 season Thursday highlights the realities of college football, and WSU head coach Jay Hill said Monday that it's not a bad thing when FCS teams play FBS opponents.

"I think they're outstanding for the game because it gives FCS schools the opportunity to fund their program, if they need it," Hill said. "And it gives the FBS teams an opportunity that, if they schedule the right ones, they can still get a very good opponent and get that opportunity for what they so-call should be a win, and it's good for everybody."

Indeed, the payout is the primary reason athletic directors at FCS schools like Weber State ink such one-game deals, which Hill acknowledged with an appropriate dose of realism.

The game, arranged five years ago, will see the University of Utah send Weber State $600,000. WSU currently has four more future matchups against FBS teams: Utah State (2022, $390,000), Utah (2023, $600,000), Washington (2024, $700,000), and Arizona (2025, $625,000).

Weber State took a 41-10 beating at Utah in 2018, setting an all-time low in total yardage in a game despite leading 10-0 early (the Wildcats gained 59 total net yards).

While that's more likely to happen when scheduling from the Power 5 contingent of the FBS ranks, it's not as common of an occurrence for WSU lately. The next season, a more experienced Wildcats team made two Mountain West schools sweat profusely and take hard-earned wins (6-0 at San Diego State and 19-13 at Nevada).

"I don't honestly see a difference between playing us and playing a lower-level Mountain West team. We'd beat a lot of those FBS teams in the bottom. I just don't see there's much of a difference. I think it's good for the game," Hill said.

It sounds like, if Hill ever became a head coach at an FBS school, he'd feel the same coming from the other side.

"I don't see that, if you're playing an SEC schedule or a Pac-12 schedule, that to give one of your nonconference games to an FCS opponent, how does that hurt?" he said. "Your other 10 games are going to be loaded, you should have plenty of opportunity to prove you're one of the top teams."


Hill and junior running back Josh Davis both said that, despite a short offseason after playing a spring schedule, the team is ready to go and handled camp mostly like normal.

"It's been such a short time since we played but I think our team has really pushed through it and done what we needed to do to get back and I think we'll come to this Utah game and show what we've got," Davis said. "You've got to keep going to (physical therapy) to get your body right and play in this fall season."

"Once we started in August," Hill said, "we followed a very similar camp schedule we normally do in the fall. We tried to front-end the rest right when we got to the summertime, so our players rested then. We had a good eight-week lifting period. So I don't see it any different than a normal year."


Weber State announced team captains Monday, which are selected solely by player vote: senior defensive tackle Jared Schiess, senior linebacker Conner Mortensen, senior receiver Rashid Shaheed, junior receiver Ty MacPherson, and freshman quarterback Bronson Barron.

Barron played in five games in the spring but is still a true freshman by eligibility.

"I think it's outstanding. Your quarterback probably should be a team captain but he wasn't voted that in the spring season. He's now had a year in the program to show his toughness and dedication and film study and all that stuff, and he's won the respect of this teammates," Hill said.

"He was one of the leading vote-getters so he deserves to be a captain. Quite frankly, he's won my trust just the way he handles his business," he continued. "I'm excited to see how he's going to handle this atmosphere at the University of Utah and this defense that is very good."


Davis said he expects the spring schedule to help WSU's offense take a big leap this fall season.

"You already know the playbook and know what you need to do. That spring season showed us what our weaknesses were and what we need to improve on, and I think that's what we've done this summer," Davis said. "In the spring season, there were little things we should've done and there would've been big plays upon big plays. If we each do our one-eleventh and with coach (Matt) Hammer calling the plays, we're going to be great."


Hill spoke more Monday about his decision to make Grant Duff and Joe Dale co-defensive coordinators this season, stepping away from the playcalling himself.

"This is going to give me the opportunity to ... be more of a head coach, manage the game, give suggestions on both sides of the ball and special teams," Hill said. "Before, I was so engulfed on what was going on with the defense, I really, quite frankly, had a hard time paying attention to the offense as much as I wanted to. Same with special teams.

"I think this will free me up to do a little more game management. It's for sure freed me up during the week where I get to watch more film on each side of the ball instead of just the one, and offer more suggestions on the overall game plan going into an opponent."


Jonah Williams, the former WSU defensive end who has spent time with the Los Angeles Rams in various capacities, was named to the team's initial 53-man roster Tuesday. He stands to join defensive back Taron Johnson (Buffalo Bills) as WSU alums on active rosters this NFL season.

Offensive lineman Iosua Opeta, who started two games for the Philadelphia Eagles last season, was not on the team's 53-man roster published Tuesday.


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