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McBride all nerves before WSU opener

Weber State coach Ron McBride focuses on a play during his debut with the Wildcats.
Weber State coach Ron McBride focuses on a play during his debut with the Wildcats.
Brian Nicholson, For The Deseret Morning News

OGDEN — Ron McBride may be 65 years old and a veteran of more than 40 years on the sidelines, 13 years of that as the University of Utah's head football coach, but Saturday night, McBride was all nerves before his new Weber State team played its first game for him.

"He was pretty nervous," said his wife Vicky, assuming the high expectations Ogdenites have for the McBride Era had something to do with it.

Nah.

"My expectations are very high. I expect to do well," McBride said. "I've been there before, so I know what the deal is."

What he was nervous about was how these Wildcats would respond to a game situation, to live ammunition, as football coaches like to say. "All day today, last night, I was very anxious," he admitted.

After coaching them since taking the job Dec. 8, 2004, he still didn't know quite what he had just prior to Saturday evening's kickoff against Western State in Stewart Stadium on the Weber campus.

For one night, the Wildcats responded quite well, with a record-setting 61-0 vicory in a game that was cut short by lightning and a mutual decision by the coaches that no more needed to be done on the field.

The Wildcats could very well be on the other end of a score like that this week when they travel to meet Fresno State, coached by McBride friends and family and a team that McBride says is coach Pat Hill's best yet. "They're going to want to beat the hell out of me," said McBride.

But that's the next game, and the first one was just darned sweet, seeing as it came in front of a Weber record crowd of 17,593 that all wanted to be part of the inaugural Mac Attack.

"For me, it's gratifying to be accepted back in the state of Utah, by the people of Utah, and have the opportunity to try to do something special for them," said McBride. "This city up here has been more than gracious to me. It's been like a fairy tale, kind of."

The crowd included at least 20 of McBride's former Utes, said his son, Dan Schwam. And some current Utes like Jesse Boone and Marquess Ledbetter were also in the audience, as were a couple of busloads of Ute fans who made plans to come months ago. Many of them were wearing Ute paraphernalia, but many also had on Weber State gear.

Former Ute long snapper Brian Bachhuber came in from Orange County, Calif., especially to see Utah play Friday and Mac's 'Cats play Saturday - the first time he's been back since graduating following the 2000 season.

Ute record-setting running back Del "Popcorn" Rodgers, who played in the NFL for Green Bay and San Francisco, came in from Sacramento just for Saturday's game, to pay some homage to McBride. Oh, and to watch his son's new team. Conrad Rodgers, a former prep all-conference noseguard who was named defensive lineman of the year last year has slimmed down by some 30 pounds and is a freshman fullback for McBride's Wildcats, showing the loyalty his father feels to McBride.

The current Wildcat players may not have noticed all the Utes watching them - at least Adrian Conway and quarterback Ian Pizarro didn't - but it didn't surprise them. They are already starting to feel that way about McBride.

"I figured that would happen, old guys coming back to see what he could do," said Conway.

"Especially with a program that needed to be turned around the way ours did, so I figured they'd come and watch," Pizarro said, noting, "He would give any breaks to anybody (during practices). He makes you accountable for everything you do. Everyone finishes from up top to down low. That's how we're more disciplined."

"We definitely wanted to come out and make a statement, show what he had instilled during the offseason here," said Conway, "about mental toughness and everything, to show that this is a totally new program.

"He taught us to finish. Ever since the day he got here, that's the No. 1 thing," said Conway, who gained 208 yards and scored three touchdowns.


E-mail: lham@desnews.com