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Weber State football: Despite freshman mistakes, hopes high for Richie Munoz and WSU culture

By BRETT HEIN - Standard-Examiner | Oct 15, 2023

BRIAN WOLFER, Special to the Standard-Examiner

Weber State quarterback Richie Muñoz throws the football against UC Davis on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023, at Stewart Stadium in Ogden.

Gaining just 180 yards of offense in a 27-10 loss to Northern Arizona — including 100 over the final three quarters — felt like a breaking point for Weber State football’s offense.

Whether the depth chart published two days later that said Kylan Weisser and Creyton Cooper were co-starters at quarterback was a concealment or a pre-practice competition guess, it did end up being a breaking point.

True freshman Richie Munoz — the three-star quarterback who threw for 40 touchdowns to three interceptions as a high school senior — got his first collegiate action in his first game since Nov. 4, 2022, perhaps taking the baton for the next era of Wildcat football as WSU hosted UC Davis on Saturday.

Results were mixed.

“At times, I thought there was good rhythm. But at other times, we bogged down with freshman mistakes that, obviously, we’ve got to get corrected here in a hurry,” WSU head coach and offensive coordinator Mickey Mental said.

Munoz threw 15 of 30 for 138 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions as WSU gained 275 yards in what has traditionally been a low-scoring slugfest against UC Davis. This time, it was a 17-16 loss.

At times he successfully made difficult throws, like long throws to the sideline across the hashes. Other times, he underthrew wide-open receivers.

“I thought the game was fast for him early on, thought the game sped up on him. You could tell with how he was throwing those balls. Some of the balls, his feet weren’t set,” Mental said. “As the game went on, I thought he relaxed a little.

“But a lot of good. And a lot of freshman mistakes.”

The good was what felt like more offensive momentum and more room to grow, even without star running back Damon Bankston. Munoz made almost every right play, whether or not the throw was delivered. He never threw into coverage, he moved around the pocket and away from pressure on all but one occasion, he identified the right play to make and did it quickly.

He also committed two unforced fumbles, including one on a third-and-8 from the UC Davis 43 in the fourth quarter where he stepped through the pocket and had a first down and more in front of him, but sent the ball out of bounds instead.

“If he tucks it and runs, we move the chains and were getting closer to Kyle’s (Thompson) range for a field goal,” Mental said. “As he was running, he hit his leg. He’s got to tuck the ball better on that one because I think he does get the first down … I thought it was a great step-up to go run for the first down. They were in man coverage and playing soft to the back side.

“Those he’s got to make, I expect him to make and that’s where you win a really good game.”

Is the ball Munoz’s from here on out?

Logic would say it should be.

“I think he did really well, actually,” running back Kris Jackson said. “He had a couple muffed snaps and all but it’s his first game since high school and so he’s going to have jitters, which he got out this game. So I think he’ll just be getting better and better each week from here on out.”

It will take continued work for it to be Munoz’s team.

“I mean, he’s got to answer the bell,” Mental said. “Other than the fumble, I thought his decision-making was sound. There’s things he’s got to clean up but as long as you don’t turn the ball over, we saw today, our defense is going to give us a chance to win.

“We’ve got to be more opportunistic when we get close, punch it in — just like we did last year. But that’s an ongoing evaluation, you’ve got to play to the standard here to remain in that job. We’ll look at the film, we’ll see where we can get better and grow from that.”

Meanwhile, the Wildcats are 3-4 overall and 2-3 against FCS opponents. With one win a victory over a non-Division I team, it seems the playoffs are off the table this season with four games still left — a place Weber State has not been since 2015.

Could that spell trouble?

“We still have things ahead of us. We still have stuff to play for,” Jackson said. “Losing games is never fine but quitting is what makes you a loser.”

If he and his team keep “spirits high,” he says, “we’re starting to figure it out. We’ll be OK from here on out.”

Mental thinks the Weber State foundation is still there.

“You’ve got to remain as one. It’s easy to be together when things are going right. When things aren’t going as well as we’d like them, you’ve got to stick together, and that starts with me and my staff,” Mental said.

“The culture is really good here. We’ve got to remain together and things will fall our way. I believe that. As long as you do the right things throughout the week, you know, nobody’s hanging their head in there. It’s, how do we get better for next week and how do we pull out a win against a really good Eastern Washington on the road.”


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