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We’ve been falling behind early and it’s been very costly. We need to come out fast and sustain drives, take care of the ball and tackle better. – WSU coach Jay Hill
CEDAR CITY — With Weber State dropping its first four contests of the season, it’s obvious the new-look Wildcats are having a difficult time getting things rolling.
After just four games, WSU (0-4, 0-0) has been outscored 51-7 in the first quarter alone and hasn’t scored in the first 12 minutes in either of its last two games. In addition, the ‘Cats are a dismal 5 of 15 on third down in the opening quarter.
“We need to start coming out faster and establish and execute our game plan early on,” Weber State coach Jay Hill said. “We’ve been falling behind early and it’s been very costly. We need to come out fast and sustain drives, take care of the ball and tackle better.”
Despite the tough losses, there have been many bright spots and signs of improvement that should give the ‘Cats some confidence heading into their conference opener at in-state rival Southern Utah (0-4, 0-0) Saturday night.
Senior wide receiver Shaydon Kehano ranks second in the country in receptions per game (9.5) and tallied 12 last week — the most by a Wildcat in 18 years. He also ranks second in the Big Sky in yards per game (98.2).
Meanwhile, sophomore quarterback Billy Green has found a rhythm and ranks second in the Big Sky and sixth in the nation in passing yards per game (261.5). He is also fourth in the nation in completions per game (26.5) and fifth in the conference in total offense (242.5).
“Shaydon has done a terrific job for us and I’ve also been really pleased with how Billy has been playing,” Hill said. “But I would like to see him (Green) raise his completion percentage by about 5 percent.”
Weber State will really need to tighten up its game in order to pick up its first win of the season. The Wildcats’ lack of discipline, costly turnovers and lackluster red zone defense have been their downfall this season.
The Wildcats rank last in the conference in turnover margin (minus-five) and are the most penalized team with 39 on the year. Weber State has also allowed its opponents to score on 13 of their 15 red zone trips — 11 of which were touchdowns.
“That’s definitely where our focus has been. You take away those mistakes and we could just as easily be 4-0 instead of 0-4,” said Hill. “It just comes down to executing better and playing smarter.”
Weber State boasts a 15-5 all-time record against Southern Utah, but the Thunderbirds have won two of the last three meetings. Coming off one of its best seasons in school history, Hill knows SUU isn’t just going to roll over — especially on its home field.
“It’s going to be a battle. Southern Utah is a tough team,” said Hill. “We’ve both faced a difficult schedule and it’s going to be a physical war. Whichever team can hold on to the ball and execute its game plan better is going to come out on top.”
The Wildcats and Thunderbirds are set to kick off at 6:05 p.m. at Eccles Stadium.
Ryan Love is a full-time student at the University of Utah studying communications, and has been a part-time sportswriter and scoreboarder for the Deseret News since Oct. 2012.
Follow him on Twitter @RLove7724