OGDEN — With the Weber State Wildcats still winless after seven games, coach Jerry Graybeal is not about to throw in the towel.
But he will prepare for the final four games with next season in mind. Graybeal announced Tuesday that sophomore Ian Pizarro will start at quarterback when the Wildcats host Eastern Washington in today's homecoming contest. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.
"He's the quarterback of the future," Graybeal said. "Hopefully he can stay healthy for the last four games." Pizarro won't be the only underclassman who will get playing time.
Graybeal plans to play as many young players as he can. "I'm always thinking about the future. Right now we're playing to see who will factor in the next few years," Graybeal said.
"We've been telling all the young players they should be pushing to get in." After senior quarterback Jeff Fowler went down with an injury against Montana, Pizarro played until he suffered a second degree left shoulder separation. Three weeks later, Pizarro said he feels between 90 and 100 percent and is excited to make his first start today against the Eagles. "I'm ready to step up to the challenge," Pizarro said. "I feel I've progressed so much every week."
Eastern Washington will certainly present a challenge. The Eagles are 4-3 (3-1) and boast the top scoring offense in the conference, including the top quarterback (Erik Meyer), receiver (Eric Kimble) and running back (Darius Washington). Defensively, the Eagles lead the Big Sky in pass defense and have two of the best defensive backs in the conference in Brandon Keeler and Isaiah Trufant. Coach Paul Wulff is 3-1 when playing the Wildcats and his old coaching associate Graybeal.
"This will be the most explosive offensive team we've faced this season," Graybeal said. "Defensively, they may have the best overall secondary in the league."
Graybeal hopes the spirit of homecoming and last year's success against the Eagles will help the Wildcats to their first victory. In last year's game, the Wildcats defeated Idaho State in convincing fashion and finished the year with four straight wins.
Against Eastern Washington in Cheney, Wash., running back Nick Chournos rushed for 194 yards and two touchdowns and threw for another score to help the Wildcats break a 13-game road losing streak.
At this point, the coach will pull for any advantage he can. "It seems like we take one step forward then three back," Graybeal said. "One thing I am proud of, this group keeps on fighting and won't give up."
WILDCAT NOTES: Junior Brady Fosmark was named National Co-Player of the Week. The 6-foot-3, 255-pound defensive lineman had 14 total tackles vs. Sacramento State, 11 unassisted. He had seven tackles for loss (-28 yard), which set a WSU single game record. Three of those tackles were quarterback sacks. He now needs just three more sacks to become WSU's career leader.