OGDEN — Weber State lost six of seven Big Sky Conference games last season and had lost four straight games to Northern Arizona University. The Wildcats were 1-6 all-time vs. Lumberjack coach Jerome Souers.
So when Weber State returned from a two-game road swing without a win and entered Big Sky play Saturday night at Stewart Stadium against NAU, there was a lot of history going against the Wildcats.
"For this program, this is really good because the kids know that this quality opponent and the kids know that they had beaten them a lot. They got off the mat and played like a real football team," said first-year Weber coach Ron McBride, who got a conference win in his first attempt Saturday, 31-23.
The veteran of 40 years in coaching can't remember getting his first Western Athletic Conference victory back when he piloted the University of Utah, and chances are he won't remember this one so much for it being a conference debut.
"I'm just worried about getting these guys to play the way I expect them to play. That's the only thing I'm worried about," said McBride.
He may, however, remember it as a night when his new team began to believe in itself.
"They showed up tonight, and they played the way they're supposed to play.
"We're still a long ways from being perfect, but the effort was there, and we had adversity, and they just played through adversity and didn't worry about it and just kept playing," McBride said.
Junior running back Zach Hall had a little different take on winning a Big Sky game. He's been on campus for a lot longer than McBride and knows the only BSC win last year - the only win of the season - was against Idaho State, a fellow cellar team.
"This is good to get it out of the way. Everybody doesn't believe that we're going to do anything in this conference," said the Wildcat runner, who gained 92 yards and had Weber's first two touchdowns Saturday. "It's good to finally open some eyes."
Hall became a believer, like McBride wants. "It's like all the hard work we put in is finally paying off. Mac told us if we go out there and play like we did in practice, in the game, we'd have no problems.
"The man doesn't lie. It held true," Hall said.
He noted that McBride's long coaching experience works for him. "A guy like that, he knows what it takes to win He's a nice guy, kinda like your grandpa. You have so much respect and admiration for him, when he says, 'Jump,' you say, 'How high?"'
Hall also said that Weber players figure they can't complain about working hard in practice because McBride is on campus "24 hours a day. He works tirelessly. He hasn't been home in a month.
"He does so much for us, the least we can do is go out there and play as hard as we can and get a conference win for him."