At least Jody Sears hasn’t lost his sense of humor.
His Weber State football team is 1-4, has been outscored 214-22 in its last four games and is coming off its worst home loss in almost a decade.
Losses to FBS in-state rivals Utah (70-7) and Utah State (70-6) were followed by a 43-6 setback at 12th-ranked FCS power McNeese State and, last weekend, a 31-3 home loss to a Sacramento State team that two weeks earlier gave up eight touchdowns to Division II Southern Oregon.
The Wildcats’ schedule “is like drinking from a hot fire hose when you’re thirsty,” joked Sears, whose Wildcats are parched for wins going into Saturday’s game against sixth-ranked Eastern Washington at Roos Field.
The Eagles are thirsty, too, having dropped their second straight game in a 49-34 setback Saturday at Sam Houston State.
“This one obviously means a ton, because if you start out 0-1 then your back is really against the wall,” Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin said.
The worst part of the schedule is over for Eastern Washington, which is 2-2 going into the Big Sky Conference schedule. But while Baldwin said he embraces the challenge of a tough nonconference schedule, it’s a bit much for a struggling Weber State team that has 14 redshirt freshmen or true freshmen in its two-deep.
Moreover, the Wildcats are starting true freshman quarterback Austin Chipoletti for the fourth straight game after an injury to senior Jordan Adamczyk, who left the program this week.
Despite a capable running back in Bo Bolen (5.2 yards per carry), the Wildcats rank last in the Big Sky in most offensive categories, including 23.9 percent (21 for 88) on third-down conversions.
Sears sees nothing ahead but “teachable moments” for Chipoletti, who is 36 for 75 (48 percent) for 273 yards and three interceptions. Baldwin sees an offense with some similarities to Sam Houston State’s option attack that put up 556 yards on the Eagles.
Stuck in the middle
After fast starts in the first quarter against Toledo and Sam Houston State, the Eagles’ offense struggled in the second and third quarters.
In 18 possessions, Eastern has scored twice, both TDs against Sam Houston. Ten series ended in punts, three with turnovers, two at halftime and one on downs.
In contrast, the Eagles punted just once in a 49-46 win at Oregon State in the season opener.
“We shot ourselves in the foot, and we have to clean that up,” Baldwin said.
Homecoming for Sears
The last time he was in Cheney, in the fall of 2007, Sears was packing his bags for Pullman. As defensive coordinator for Paul Wulff from 2003 to 2007, Sears joined him at their alma mater at Washington State.
After Wulff was fired at the end of the 2011 season, Sears joined John L. Smith’s staff at Weber State, and was elevated to head coach after Smith suddenly bolted for Arkansas without coaching a down.
Sears has warm memories of Cheney, including coaching alongside Baldwin when the latter served as Wulff’s offensive coordinator.
“It’s one of those deals where you’re always rooting for Eastern, except for one week, and this is the week,” Sears said. “I’m excited to go back and see the boys, but we’re going back on business.”
Around the conference
Montana State senior All-American QB DeNarius McGhee made an early return to the lineup on Saturday. McGhee sustained a shoulder injury on the final play of a 31-30 loss to SMU on Sept. 7, and not initially expected to return until October. McGhee completed 13 of 18 passes for 194 yards and guided the Bobcats to five scoring drives that all ended Cody Kirk rushing touchdowns. … Six Big Sky teams are ranked in the top 20 of this week’s Jeff Sagarin FCS power rankings. Eastern Washington is fifth, followed by Montana (10th), Montana State (12th), Northern Arizona (16th), Cal Poly (19th), and Portland State (20th). Eastern Washington is ranked 84th overall. North Dakota State is the top FCS team at 29th.
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