MH 111216 Weber State Cal Poly 01

In this November 2016 photo, Weber State's Cardon Malan (44) chases Cal Poly quarterback Dano Graves (7) at Stewart Stadium in Ogden.

OGDEN — Weber State football opens FCS play Saturday with a familiar trip against a familiar opponent with a unique offense.

The No. 10 Wildcats (0-1) visit the Cal Poly Mustangs (0-1) in a game against a Big Sky opponent scheduled as a non-conference game.

Weber State leads the overall series 7-6 and the two teams have played grinding, physical games in the last three contests. Cal Poly claimed a 30-24 victory in 2014. WSU answered with wins of 22-15 and 17-3 in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

The Mustangs, under 10th-year head coach Tim Walsh, usually rack up rushing yards with their triple-option attack.

“The key for us is we better be able to run the football,” Walsh said. “The last three games have been close and we have struggled offensively in those games. We won one of them and had to run a lot of trick plays to do it ... We have to execute well in order to beat them.”

To wit: WSU never ran away from Cal Poly, which finished 1-10 last season, but the result was never in question. Weber held the Mustangs to 106 rushing yards and 179 total, forcing one fumble and picking off three passes.

WSU head coach Jay Hill says it takes all week to prepare for the triple option, which is based on exploiting the matchups the defense provides to the run choices.

“We change our scheme, we change our terminology a little bit. Responsibilities change. We’ve got guys playing different positions. So in that, it changes,” Hill said.

“But these guys know it. A lot of these guys have played these positions before. They understand it.”

In the same week Weber State lost 41-10 at Utah, Cal Poly lost 49-3 at FCS No. 1 North Dakota State, totaling 207 yards and scoring its only points on a 50-yard field goal.

Both coaches had the same thing to say about those games.

Hill: “What happened first week doesn’t mean anything, in my opinion, for either team. We’re going down there expecting a dogfight and they’re expecting the same thing.”

Walsh: “We know what they’re capable of and we threw that Utah game (film) out. We saw them last year as opposed to last week. They have four to five talented linemen who have played a lot of games for them.”

What does matter is injuries. While Weber State is likely without senior running back Treshawn Garrett, Cal Poly may be without senior quarterback Khaleel Jenkins.

Jenkins, after missing the final six games last season to injury, hurt his knee in the third quarter last week. Sophomore Jake Jeffrey finished the game. Those two and freshman Kyle Reid are all listed as co-starters on Cal Poly’s depth chart this week.

Jeffrey started last year’s game against the Wildcats, throwing 7 of 20 for 73 yards and three interceptions while rushing eight times for minus-11 yards, taking three sacks.

Still, the Mustangs are hopeful this season. Four of last year’s six team captains suffered season-ending injuries, including senior fullback Joe Protheroe. He played only two games last season but in 2016 rushed for 1,334 yards, an average of 121.3 per game.

WSU hopes to have the same kind of success it’s had recently against the Mustangs. In 2016’s win, the Wildcats held Protheroe to 65 yards and 3.6 yards per carry in a season when he averaged 5.3 yards per carry.

The game is scheduled to kick at 7 p.m. MDT. A live broadcast will be available on WatchBigSky.com and on Pluto TV app channel 244. Steve Klauke and Jerry Graybeal will have a radio call on 1430 AM KLO.

CUTTING THE BLADES

Saturday’s game will be Weber State’s only regular-season game on natural grass. Stewart Stadium has artificial turf, as do outdoor trips to Utah and Southern Utah. Weber also travels to play in three domes (Northern Arizona, North Dakota, Idaho State) this season.

COMPUTER PREDICTION

Jeff Sagarin maintains a computer prediction and rating model for college football (once used in the BCS formula) that includes both FBS and FCS teams. Ratings can be used to mathematically provide odds for the game.

Weber State rates at No. 122 (out of 255 Division-I teams) and Cal Poly is No. 178. Using the associated ratings and values for home-field advantage, Sagarin’s formula predicts a 10-point win for Weber State.

Contact Brett Hein at bhein@standard.net, follow him on Twitter @bhein3 and at facebook.com/brettheinwrites.

Brett Hein is the sports editor and covers Weber State sports for the Standard-Examiner.

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