‘Find a way to fix it’: Jay Hill looks at details for how Weber State can improve offense
OGDEN — In many ways, it feels like Weber State football is fighting the same battle to take its next step, perhaps the final step, after growing to national prominence and winning the Big Sky Conference in four straight seasons.
With a defense annually capable of going toe-to-toe with any FCS team, all eyes are again on the offense.
Though nobody expected WSU to win at Utah to open the season, a turnover on downs after a goal-to-go series started at the Utah 1 prevented the Wildcats from keeping it a game deep into the second half.
At Dixie State, miscues kept the game close in the first half until the Wildcats put their collective feet down and steamrolled to a 41-3 win.
Against James Madison, a second-down play from the JMU 5 saw quarterback Randall Johnson get his foot stepped on by a lineman, Johnson still try to hand the ball off as he fell backward, fumble it as he fell, and be returned 88 yards for a JMU touchdown. Instead of going in to make it a 10-10 game, WSU trailed 17-3 and the game was essentially over.
And, against UC Davis, WSU stacked a long, convincing TD drive against a three-and-out defensive stop, then took its next drive to the UC Davis 23 looking to go up 14-0.
But three straight plays with 1 yard to go for a first down produced no yards. And later, Kylan Weisser threw a ball under pressure from his own end zone that was easily picked off, all but gifting UC Davis a TD with a 26-yard field in what became a 17-14 loss.
Amid all that, Weber State’s offense has suffered injuries to quarterback Bronson Barron, an expected rising star, and several offensive linemen through the first four games. Barron is day to day, but likely won’t return until at least after WSU’s bye next week, while linemen like Ty Whitworth are returning to health and the field.
“It’s easy to blame a lot of the stuff that’s gone on to a hard schedule or a bunch of crazy injuries or whatever. But the reality is, no one cares,” WSU head coach Jay Hill said. “Media doesn’t care, fans don’t care, we’ve got to find a way to fix it and go down to Cal Poly and get a win. I think the players (are) very focused on that task.”
Those two QB turnovers in key situations against JMU and UC Davis loom large.
“The reality is we need our quarterbacks to take care of the ball a little bit better,” Hill said. “We need to get Bronson back. We need to get Kylan playing just a little bit better level, and we’re right where we need to be.”
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What will it take? Hill has a few details in mind.
“I think Kylan did a lot of great things in that game. He ran the ball effectively, he hit some really good throws. But there were still some things that we’re missing, and it’s not all him,” Hill said.
“The wideout catching the ball that’s there to be made; it’s, Kylan throws the ball where it’s supposed to be and we get gloved up or something like that. It’s blocking downfield at times; Josh Davis hit three or four creases that if we just did a little bit better job of blocking downfield, those might be touchdowns instead of 20-yard gains.”
Everything but the thing that matters — points on the scoreboard — looked pretty good for Weber State’s offense last week against UC Davis: 411 yards of offense, a 19-of-32 completion rate through the air, a balanced 225 yards passing to 186 yards rushing, and two running backs in Davis and Dontae McMillan running for 5.8 yards per carry.
Somehow, that only netted 14 points. WSU defenders like Jared Schiess and Eddie Heckard have spoken about how the defense needs to get back to creating turnovers, but the offense is doing more than just spinning its wheels, gets in positions to score, and doesn’t convert.
“We need those things to correlate to points, and a lot of that is just continuing to get Kylan the reps that he needs,” Hill said. “All through camp, Kylan was our third quarterback, hardly taking reps, and we’ve just got to get him rolling. And he will. He cares, he’s practiced well and he did a lot of great things in the last game.”