Weber State football 1 game away from Big Sky title as it hosts Idaho State

Friday , November 17, 2017 - 5:28 PM

BRANDON GARSIDE, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — Three years ago, Weber State football notched only two wins for the second consecutive season.

Despite the poor record, there was still optimism around the program’s future with then first-year head coach Jay Hill tasked with rebuilding the team back into a contender.

That hope has grown into reality each year since, and the Wildcats (8-2, 6-1 Big Sky) are now one game away from sharing the 2017 Big Sky Conference championship as they host the Idaho State Bengals on Saturday afternoon.

“It’s been fun to see the progression,” Hill said. “The cool thing about this team is that I think we’ve got another good step forward that we can take. I think we’re getting better and better each week. Hopefully we can keep the progress going.”

The Bengals (4-6, 2-5) have one of the most balanced offensive attacks in the Big Sky and average a second-best 458 total yards per game.

Junior quarterback Tanner Gueller passes for 265.1 yards per game and completes 58.8 percent of his passes. James Madison leads the run game and is third in rushing yards 101.3 yards per outing.

“They pose a lot of problems for us,” Hill said. “We’re going to have to play sound, we’re going to have to play physical and get after them the way I know we can. We’ve just got to do it.”

Senior Xequille Harry, a player from Hill’s first recruiting class, said the key to slowing down Idaho State’s offense will be to force them to rely on Gueller’s arm.

“We need to make sure that we knock out the run first and make them one dimensional,” Harry said. “Then we need to take care of our pass defense. We slipped a little bit, but we will bounce and take care of the pass defense.”

The Bengals have had defensive troubles all season, giving up an average of more than 35 points and 486 yards per game.

> Weber State smashes hapless Portland State 63-17

According to senior receiver Drew Batchelor, the issues Idaho State has on defense don’t stem from lack of talent, but from missed assignments.

“Looking at the film, their struggles defensively have been little tweaks and things. Sometimes they don’t line up in the correct position,” Batchelor said. “They’ve got great athletes, they’ve got good players. If we don’t come to play, it’ll be a long day, but I think if we come ready to play, it should take care of itself.”

While the game will be the last of the season for the Bengals, head coach Rob Phenicie hopes for a strong showing against a good team.

“They have a whole lot to play for. There’s a lot for that bunch to be highly motivated to play,” Phenicie said. “We just want to go out and finish the season strong ... and show people we’re better than we were the last two years.”

The game is scheduled to kickoff at 2 p.m. at Stewart Stadium. It will be streamed live on PlutoTV and WatchBigSky.com. Rod Zundel and Bo Bolen will have the radio call on 1430 AM KLO.

Contact Brandon Garside at bgarside@standard.net, on Twitter @BrandonGarside and on Facebook.com/BrandonGarsideSE.

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