OGDEN — There could hardly be a better juxtaposition of opposites than Weber State provided running the football in its first two games of the 2019 season.
Week 1 at San Diego State: 35 total rushing yards, 1.8 yards per carry and a longest rush of 12 yards from Josh Davis.
Week 2 against Cal Poly: 275 rushing yards, 6.4 yards per carry and a longest rush of 47 yards from Kevin Smith, with Davis posting a long of 30.
There's an obvious difference in opponents, sure, as SDSU plays at the FBS level and should theoretically have bigger, stronger athletes at many positions.
But that's only part of the equation, head coach Jay Hill says.
First: Junior running back Kevin Smith went nearly two calendar years without playing in a game after missing the 2018 season with a knee injury. He had three carries for seven yards in the Week 1 loss, then 13 for 114 yards a week later.
"Kevin was one week healthier," Hill said. "He’s actually taken some hits again and starting to gain confidence that he really is back and healthy. So that was a big part of it."
Smith and the sophomore Davis certainly looked like the dynamic duo teammates and coaches were excited for in fall camp. Each took turns gashing the Cal Poly defense with big runs, each eclipsing 100 yards with Davis totaling 129.
Smith said he and Davis set high goals for each other and work hard in practice — creating a "whole bunch of handshakes" between them and also providing a critical word when performance isn't up to snuff.
"That's like my best friend," Smith said.
The other part of the equation is the offensive line, particularly sophomores Noah Atagi at left tackle and Hyrum Tapusoa at left guard. Juniors at those positions — Tyler Downs and Cole McGinnis — are working through injury recovery.
"When you start your first game in Division-I football, you grow a lot," Hill said. "That’s what happened with Hyrum, and the continuity with him and Noah Atagi, just growing together one more week is a big difference. Those guys usually make their biggest improvement between Game 1 and Game 2, which they did."
In total, WSU outrushed Cal Poly's option attack 275 yards to 164. Smith noticed the difference up front, too.
"The line did a great job ... I saw them being a lot more explosive. I saw the preparation this week was a lot better," Smith said after the win. "The jitters were out, we’re in the season, after that first game they just knew and prepared so well. I feel like it’s going to be like this for the rest of the season."