The problem for Weber State isn't so much that it only has a full week to prepare to face Cal Poly's option-running offense before the two teams clash in the FCS playoffs on Saturday.
What's really troubling for the Wildcats is how well the Mustangs are running their option offense. Cal Poly is on track with its option, as it held the ball for nearly 40 minutes and rushed for 276 yards in a 36-35 overtime loss to the Wisconsin Badgers last Saturday.
"In option terminology, they got it on track," said Weber State coach Ron McBride. "They call it being on track when you're running the option and everything is going as it's supposed to go. It's on track."
McBride is as familiar as a person can be with the option. He faced it every year against Air Force when he coached at Utah. He was also the offensive line coach at Arizona when the Wildcats ran the option, so he has taught the principles of running the offense in the past.
"I know exactly what they're doing," McBride said.
The Wildcats' defense will be familiar with what the Mustangs are doing, but they still need to go out and execute. That's much easier said than done. The Mustangs are third in the nation in rushing offense, averaging a whopping 300.8 yards per game. And they are balanced, as quarterback Jonathan Dally (644 yards) and running backs Ryan Mole (606 yards) and James Noble (570 yards) are all true threats.
"They're good at it; they're very good at it," McBride said. "They've matched up their personnel, and got some things a lot of option teams don't have. They got good receivers as well as good runners. It's a tough thing to prepare to defend in a week's time."
Complicating matters for the Wildcats is the presence of Cal Poly receiver Ramses Barden. He has caught 61 passes for 1,149 yards and 16 touchdowns this season. His best game of the season came against Southern Utah when he had 12 catches for 217 yards. Barden torched the Wildcats for 219 receiving yards in a 47-19 Cal Poly win over Weber State in 2007.
As dangerous as Barden is, slowing the Mustangs starts with keeping their triple option in check. They ran for a season-high 459 yards in a 49-10 win over the Big Sky's Idaho State earlier in the season.
"You don't face it too often and it's a pretty tough offense to prepare for," said defensive end Kevin Linehan. "Everyone has a responsibility. One guy has the dive, another guy has the quarterback, another guy has the pitch. We got to get that set and sound. We got to make sure we know what we're doing on every play and we don't make any mistakes."
The Wildcats' ability on defense to stay disciplined, complete their assignments and fight off blocks could be the determining factor in whether the Wildcats pick up just their second playoff victory in school history on Saturday.
"You got to be very disciplined in what you're doing in all phases from the back end to the front," McBride said. "You got to make them earn everything. The old saying is you take away the fullback first, the quarterback second and then you rally to the pitch. But they do stuff other than the option, so you got to stay sound."
Weber State (9-3)
at Cal Poly (8-2)
Saturday, 7 p.m. (MST)
Alex G. Spanos Stadium, San Luis Obispo, Calif.
TV: none Radio: 1430 AM