When the Weber State University Wildcats line up to kick off this year's football season, the only opponent they'll be facing is the 11 men on the other side of the line of scrimmage.
That wasn't the case last year when the Wildcats faced a "do or die" ultimatum from the Board of Trustees to put fans in the stands and cash in the money drawer. Failure to do both would mean an end to Weber State football.The fans came through and by the end of the season, the trustees had ended the death watch and voted to keep football for the forseeable future.
That vote of confidence has made a world of difference this year in the way Weber State has attacked preseason preparations and focused on the task at hand, improving on last year's 5-6 campaign, especially the 2-5 Big Sky mark.
That won't be easy. Last year the Wildcats warmed up on a couple NAIA patsies in Western Montana and Montana Tech at home. This year the Wildcats take to the road the first two weeks against Western Michigan and Central Michigan, two good Div. I-A programs that usually use the early part of the season teething on Big 10 schools.
The Wildcats will be building on a nucleus of 11 returning starters and 29 lettermen from last year's squad. Leading the cast will be quarterback Bryan Martin. The 6-3, 205-pound senior is described as "bigger, stronger and faster" by head coach Dave Arslanian. Martin hit on 199 of 337 passes for 2,799 yards and 19 touchdowns last year. He was picked off just five times. His 144.5 passing efficiency rating was the second highest single season rating in the team's history. Arslanian said he things fans will see a more confident and more consistent player in Martin this year.
An experienced receiver corps will be a plus for the Wildcat offense. The group is headed by senior Pokey Eckford who grabbed 54 passes last year for 829 yards and five touchdowns from the H-back position. Others include junior Norvel Young who had 23 catches for 354 in eight games last year in the Z position and senior Joel Pelagio-Williams who snagged 22 passes for 350 yards and three touchdowns. Junior Lance Mimnaugh, 6-4, 235 pounds, and sophomore Cam Quayle, 6-7, 240 pounds, will share the tight end position.
Running back duties will likely fall to seniors Von Robinson and Reggie Carter who will try to fill the shoes of last year's rushing leader Larry Rogers. Rogers, a junior, will sit out the '95 campaign to focus on academics.
Five returning starters from last year's Big Sky defense leading Wildcats are back. The Wildcats gave up just 340.9 yards per game in the pass happy Big Sky where offensive slug fests are the norm. Arslanian said defense is again a team priority.
"Every Tea in our league has the potential to go out and score 30 or 40 points each game," Arslanian said. "The top teams year in and year out in the Big Sky have strong defenses."
Defensive End Jason Jensen (6-4, 260 pounds, senior) was Honorable Mention All-Big Sky last year and is expected to play a key role in the Wildcat defensive scheme this year. He's just two quarterback sacks away from becoming WSU's all-time leader in that category. He lead the team with 10 sacks last years.
Others expected to play key roles on defense include senior Tom Smith, a defensive tackle who was also selected a team captain and junior college transfers Alfred Tukuafu and Kelly Felkins, also on the line. Jacob Belmont, another All-Big Sky honorable mention, will lead the linebacking corps along with Quincy Hall who started 10 games last year.
The secondary finds Havili Reeves, a sophomore ready to takeover the "Wildcat" spot. He will be joined by seniors Sheddric Mickles and Chris Matagi at the safety positions and junior Ian Franklin and senior Jamarcus Stewart at the corners.
'95 WSU schedule
Date Opponent Time
Aug. 31 at W. Michigan 5:30 p.m.
Sept. 9 at C. Michigan 11 a.m.
Sept. 16 St. Mary's 6:05 p.m.
Sept. 23 Cal Poly-SLO 6:05 p.m.
Sept. 30 E. Washington 6:05 p.m.
Oct. 7 at Montana 12:05 p.m.
Oct. 16 Boise St. 1:05 p.m.
Oct. 21 at Montana St.12:05 p.m.
Oct. 28 Idaho 12:05 p.m.
Nov. 11 N. Arizona 12:05 p.m.
Nov. 18 at Idaho St. 6:35 p.m.
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