OGDEN — Jay Hill’s frustration was apparent during Saturday’s postgame radio interview after he saw his Weber State Wildcats play well but let another opportunity slip to beat an FBS team — this time, a loss at Nevada.
“That was disappointing today, the overall production of the offense,” Hill said Saturday. “I’m not very happy with this performance, quite frankly.”
While there were places to improve on defense and special teams, losses of 6-0 and 19-13 against FBS teams left the spotlight on the offense.
WSU gained 125 yards in Saturday’s loss at Nevada. It found the end zone only when a blocked punt provided a 15-yard field, and that score gave WSU a 10-3 lead. Nevada slowly overtook the margin as Weber couldn’t find paydirt again.
It was an addition to an increasing sample size for the Wildcats’ offense, which includes games from last season like a 14-6 win over Eastern Washington — seven points came on a punt return — or a 23-18, season-ending loss against Maine — six points of which came as time expired and with the game out of reach.
In last season’s win over EWU, the Wildcats did grind out 116 rushing yards, which was enough to help grab a win. WSU totaled negative-1 rushing yards in the Maine loss, 35 in this year’s loss at San Diego State, and 62 at Nevada.
“We’re not explosive enough, we’re not running the ball good enough against the good teams,” Hill said Saturday.
It’s not supposed to be easy to play against teams from upper divisions. But the lost opportunities sting, no doubt. WSU is a couple scores away from being 3-0 and, for those who dare to dream, being ranked No. 1.
Hill offered some diagnosis on the situation Tuesday after practice.
“We’ve got to do a better job, coaching wise, of scheming better,” he said. “We’ve got to get players in the right positions to be successful ... We have to do a better job of distributing the ball to our playmakers and executing down the stretch.”
Hill pointed to both schemes and execution as a way to make progress.
“The weird thing is, I can turn on film on some offenses and you can’t tell a flippin’ thing they’re trying to do. They don’t block guys right, they don’t execute things very well and they get yards,” Hill said. “We’re on the flip side of that. I can see execution, I can see technique, we’re just not quite getting the ball to the right person at the right time, or something’s going on in each play that’s costing us the effectiveness that we need to have. We just need to clean up little things like that.”
That’s not all of the sample, however. Weber’s lone game against an FCS team this season was against Cal Poly. The Wildcats rushed for 275 yards and totaled 457, scoring 41 points (all on offense).
“We’re not far off, by any means,” Hill said. “We showed that in the Cal Poly game that we can be explosive. We can hit Rashid Shaheed on corner routes like we did at Nevada, or the seam route that we hit against Cal Poly, or he can take the ball to the house any time he touches it like he did at San Diego State ... It’s more about how we’re doing it than what we’re doing. We need to play with a little bit more confidence and swagger on offense.”
It’s a balancing act for players and coaches to fine-tune their attitudes appropriately.
“I think they’ve got to be realistic in knowing, we got beat by San Diego State by six points and had a bunch of opportunities. We got beat by Nevada by six points and had a ton of opportunities. Those (teams) have 22 more scholarships than us and their opportunities are a little bit different, and we’re right there with them,” Hill said. “So if we look at it from an optimistic side like that, I think that we can get better through what we’ve gone through already. We’ve stayed relatively healthy. There’s a lot of positives that are still on this team.”
But staying ranked No. 6 through two losses is not an arrival.
“Now, if we start patting ourselves on the back and we feel content and start taking moral victories because we were close — there’s no moral victories in college football for being close to winning. If we take that approach, we’ll lose a lot this year,” Hill said. “If we take the approach that we’re hungry and we’re going to build on what we’ve done, we have a chance to be really good.”
WSU’s practice load is lighter during this bye week, allowing bumps and bruises to heal before resuming a game-week schedule next week to prepare for No. 9 Northern Iowa.
Hill said he’s encouraged by what he’s seen at practice.
“Today was outstanding. That was one of the best practices I’ve had in a couple years,” he said Tuesday. “If that’s any indication of how they’re going to respond over the next little bit, then I’m excited.”