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Weber State football: Veteran coach Jay Hill knows there’s plenty more football to play

By Brett Hein - Standard-Examiner | Oct 22, 2022

ROBERT CASEY, Weber State Athletics

Montana State's offensive line, left, and Weber State's defense, right, line up during a Big Sky Conference game Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022, in Bozeman, Mont.

Weber State football had just blown a 24-9 lead and trailed 27-24 at halftime to Montana State on Saturday in what became a 43-38 loss.

Ninth-year WSU head coach Jay Hill stood for a live TV interview going into the locker room. He smiled — even laughed, maybe? — as he talked about eliminating mistakes and trying to contain MSU quarterback Tommy Mellott.

You see, Weber State had just rifled three punt snaps through the end zone for MSU safeties (that number became a record four safeties on such snaps by the game’s end).

Mellott eventually rushed for 273 yards and got the Bobcats to a 43-24 lead in the third quarter.

Weber State pushed back and, after one score, the Wildcats trailed 43-32. But there was still one quarter left to play. The TV cameras found Hill roaming up his sideline with a huge grin on his face.

WSU fell 43-38 after reaching the MSU 22-yard line with 25 seconds left and dropping a fourth-down pass at the MSU 12. Weber State took its first defeat of the season.

“It’s unfortunate. We did not play up to the way I thought we could have,” Hill said. “I don’t know what it was. We’ve got to figure some things out and we’ll be fine. We’ll be resilient.”

Hill’s evaluation of the game’s effects on the big picture of WSU’s season was much like those smiles after a blown lead and while trailing by 11 in front of a hostile crowd.

It’s almost as if he’s coached more than 100 games as Weber State’s head coach.

“As much as it hurts, this game will not define the season. This one will not. The next three or four? Absolutely. But this game will not define the season,” Hill said.

With Montana and Sacramento State coming to Ogden next, and a 6-1 overall record that includes a win over an FBS team, there’s a lot of football left to play in the final four weeks of the season.

Sure, winning a Big Sky title might depend on what other teams do, but everyone at the top of the Big Sky pretty much plays each other over the final month. Outside of a conference crown, the FCS season and playoff format don’t eliminate WSU from anything for this loss.

“We made all those mistakes and all that craziness that went on, and we still were 25 yards from beating the No. 2 team in the country at their place that hasn’t lost in four years here,” Hill said. “With all those mistakes and to be able to be where we were at, guys, it’s not the end of the world. We’re going to bounce back.”

In 2018, Weber State took an ugly, 28-24 loss in a road game at Northern Arizona that featured nine turnovers and saw WSU’s offense scuffle. At season’s end, Weber was 7-1 in the Big Sky and won the conference title, then went to the playoff quarterfinals.

In 2019, WSU got run off the field at Montana … and finished 7-1 in the Big Sky, winning the conference title and beating Montana in the playoffs to reach the FCS semifinals for the first time in program history.

“We’ve yet to be undefeated since I’ve been here. Now did I want that? Absolutely? Everyone wants that, absolutely. But the reality is we have everything in front of us still if we handle the next week or two the right way,” Hill said.

So up next is Montana on Oct. 29.

“We’ve got a huge game coming up at home this week and we need all our fans out because it’s going to be a big-time game and it needs to be a big-time atmosphere,” Hill said.


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