OGDEN — In some ways, fans would be right to say Weber State football has a problem with offensive consistency.
It's a self-admitted area of needed improvement among coaches and players, too. Head coach Jay Hill has said several times over the past two seasons that he'd like his Wildcats, when they have a solid lead and the chances are there, to be better at "putting teams away."
Junior quarterback Jake Constantine sees it, too.
"There are drives in a game where we look like we’re unstoppable, and there’s drives in a game where we look like we don’t know what we’re doing," he said this week as his team prepares to host Southern Utah for Homecoming.
But seen another way, Weber State's ability to win games is somewhat profound given what injuries have done to the quarterback position in the last two seasons.
To review: Boise State transfer and senior Rathen Ricedorff was presumed to be the frontrunner for the starting job in 2018, having the most experience and even obtaining a year in the program under his belt in 2017. Constantine, a sophomore, was still finishing rehab on a torn ACL after beginning at Boise State, then playing a year at a junior college. Kaden Jenks was the least experienced as a redshirt freshman.
Injuries hampered Ricedorff in fall camp and, with Constantine's knee not quite ready, Jenks got the starting job. He then went out under concussion protocol in the second game and Constantine had to take over, ready or not.
The pain was gone, but Constantine pushed through the mental battle of returning to the field despite knowing that, with his knee not as strong as it should be, he couldn't quite play the way he was used to.
The two rotated game reps until a month later when Jenks suffered his infamously gruesome ankle and foot injury. Constantine started the final six games of the season, winning five straight before falling in the playoff quarterfinals to Maine.
Constantine entered 2019 as the starter and, minus a run game, threw fairly well in a 6-0 loss at San Diego State to open the season. Midway through the next game against Cal Poly, he was 38 of 54 for 256 yards on the season before going down with a knee injury which required a minor scope procedure.
So Jenks, who grinded through a tough rehab just to return to playability, returned as starter as the offense slogged through another tough game against an FBS opponent at Nevada.
But then Jenks broke out, throwing 19 of 29 for 219 yards and two touchdowns in a win over No. 10 Northern Iowa.
"It’s exciting. For any teammate you consider a brother, which is all of them, any time you see somebody excel and play well, you’re super excited for them because that gives you the best chance to win a championship," Constantine said of Jenks' performance. "UNI is top 10 in the nation, so any time you can play a game like that against a team like that, it’s exciting to watch."
But Jenks banged up his throwing shoulder during the win and needed a week off. So, re-enter Constantine.
Trying to put his knee behind him again, Constantine took a few series to settle in after a month away from action but finished 20 of 36 for 163 yards and a touchdown last week at Idaho.
"It’s always good to watch Jake Constantine be Jake Constantine. There’s no doubt about that," Jenks said. "He goes out there and shows his leadership and what he can do, he threw some great passes last week. It’s always awesome to watch."
Here's where it becomes profound: through all of that, Weber State is 13-2 against FCS opponents between the two quarterbacks and has been a mainstay in not just the the Top 25, but in the Top 10.
Sure, defense and special teams play a big role in that. But, at a crucial position where many teams fall apart without consistency, and despite battling constant injuries, Constantine and Jenks have made it work.
"I think both of them know that when they’ve prepared the right way and they’re healthy, they can both play great," Hill said. "Their strengths are a little bit different, they know their strengths, we play to them a little bit with our playcalling. They have a lot of weapons surrounding them, we just need those guys to go and do what they’ve been asked to do. They don’t need to do more than that, just do what they’ve been coached to do and we’ll be great."
Injuries have helped the two quarterbacks share somewhat of a kinship, supporting each other in the trainer's room, film room and on the field.
"Me and Jake are pretty close friends anyway. That just helps because we’re always there for each other, we understand, we know what it’s like," Jenks said. "It helps to have someone there who knows how you feel and can help you through stuff."
Constantine said there's no worry about one guy "taking" the job away from the other. They just want to help each other.
Against Northern Iowa, for example, Constantine spent a few stints on a stationary bicycle to work out his legs but otherwise was trying to pick out observations he could share with Jenks.
"We have really got along the last two years, pretty much since Day 1. Our relationship has been really good, we help each other any time we can," Constantine said. "When one is playing, the other one is helping out, looking for certain keys during the game to help the other person out."
All told, against WSU's three FCS opponents this season, the two quarterbacks have combined to throw 61 of 95 (64.2%) for 564 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.
"That’s the good thing about our team. It’s always a next-man-up mentality, it has to be that way in football because injuries happen," Constantine said. "I feel like whoever’s been in has definitely helped us win so far, especially in FCS games, in the last two years. It’s been good to have us both get playing time in case one goes down."
Still, urgency is there for the offense to perform.
"We’ve got to cut down our mistakes ... we’ve got to figure it out because championship teams know exactly what they’re doing on each play," Constantine said. "That will be the biggest thing that separates us from the best teams in the Big Sky and, hopefully, when we get to the playoffs."