OGDEN — Elijah Dotson came to Ogden having rushed for 100 or more yards in five consecutive games for Sacramento State, averaging more than six yards per carry.
Jay Hill wanted Weber State’s defense to end that streak and limit his efficiency, tasking his players with goals represented by definitive numbers.
Test passed, with flying colors.
Sacramento State barely crossed the 150-yard barrier offensively, a large reason because the Wildcats didn’t just limit Dotson, they stonewalled him. Dotson rushed 18 times for 35 yards, a minuscule average of 1.9 yards per carry, and WSU won 26-14.
Hill wouldn’t detail the exact goals, but said “they basically cut that goal in half.”
“That’s a special group of guys. They’re so fun to coach because what I ask them to do, they do,” he said. “They take great pride in whatever I ask them to do.”
It helps that the defense is senior-laden, starting with linebackers LeGrand Toia and Landon Stice. They lead the team with tackles with 56 and 53, respectively, followed by senior defensive backs Jawian Harrison (49) and Keilan Benjamin (44).
Stice has a hefty four interceptions on the year and Benjamin has three. Harrison has two fumble recoveries, while seniors Stice, Benjamin, Parker Preator and Filipe Sitake have all forced one fumble each.
“We all play for each other and always have each other’s back,” Toia said. “Every time coach Hill comes to us and gives us our scheme for the week to shut them down … I feel like our defense always holds up to it.”
Weber State routinely stifles opponents. A week after South Dakota gained 635 yards against Northern Colorado, WSU held the Coyotes to 238.
Sacramento State averages 417 yards per game; WSU held the Hornets to 170. Eastern Washington averages 532 yards per game; WSU held the Eagles to 247.
“I think it’s experience. The senior leadership we have … there’s a lot of guys who have played in a lot of key games for us,” Hill said. “It’s also that they trust the scheme, they trust the system, trust what the coaches ask them to do. They know that when we practice better, we play better. Because of those beliefs and that knowledge, we don’t have to push them that hard.”
Up next is Southern Utah, fourth in the conference at 439 yards per game.
“I showed them something the other day and told them, ‘you guys are fun to coach because I don’t have to harp on effort, I don’t have to harp on tackling … or the little things,’” Hill said. “They just go out there and do it and trust what we’re doing. If we’ve got to shut someone down, they’re up for the task. Whatever we have to do, they’re up for it.”