There isn’t a number on the stat sheet that says Weber State will beat the Cal Poly football team today.
On paper, it’s a matchup between the Big Sky Conference’s top and bottom, undefeated against winless, cream and crust.
But almost halfway through the season, the Wildcats’ schedule has been brutal. They were within striking distance of upsetting a top-10 FCS team. The game is also on a Friday, a huge factor when the road team gets only three days to practice.
The perfect trap game perhaps?
“I always tell people, it’s real easy to look at scores and look at records,” Mustangs head coach Tim Walsh said, “and if you don’t look at the Jimmys and the Joes, you don’t know how good your opponent is, and they have some guys.
“If we look by them, we’re going to get killed. It won’t even be funny. It will be funny to them, to Weber State, because we’re not good enough to look by anybody.”
The Mustangs, ranked No. 19 by The Sports Network this week after debuting in the poll last week, are 4-0 and 2-0 in their first season in the Big Sky. But every one of their victories has been a tossup going into the fourth quarter.
In each of those victories — including a two-point upset at Wyoming and last week’s late-game runaway at North Dakota — Cal Poly won by outperforming their opponents in clutch situations.
Unlike the last Mustangs team to make the playoffs — a Ramses Barden-led squad in 2008 that featured multiple All-Americans and two NFL Draft picks — Cal Poly isn’t blowing away the opposition with undeniable physical dominance.
“Our attitude, our effort and our enthusiasm for the game,” Walsh said, “that’s our strength, and if we don’t play with those things, we’re missing the point of who we are.
“Our whole deal on both sides of the ball is heart, effort, execution and all the things that are really good about the game of football. It’s not based on physicality. It’s based on the mentality of who and what we are, and the mentality of playing to our strengths.”
Weber State (0-5, 0-2 Big Sky) has lost to two FBS programs — Fresno State and BYU — and ranked FCS programs Eastern Washington and McNeese State.
The one not like the others was last week’s 37-13 loss to UC Davis, which Cal Poly beat 28-20 two weeks ago.
It was a rough schedule to be sure, but the stats still tell a woeful tale of a team whose first-year head coach left for another job after spring drills without ever coaching a game in Ogden, Utah.
Weber State alumnus John L. Smith replaced Bobby Petrino at Arkansas after a Petrino sex scandal was revealed following the coach’s offseason motorcycle crash. That left Jody Sears, who Smith brought in from Washington State, in his first appointment as a head coach.
Here are the results:
• In addition to being winless, the Wildcats have been outscored 41-0 in the first quarter.
• Weber State’s only first-half touchdown came in last week’s loss to UC Davis after the Aggies had already jumped out to a 31-0 lead.
• The Wildcats have been outscored by nearly 100 points, 110-12, in the first-half alone. That’s an average halftime deficit of 21.6 points.
• Weber State has given up 20 sacks, an average of four per game and the highest total in the FCS.
• The Wildcats rank last in the Big Sky in scoring offense (16.6 points per game) and 11th out of the 13 teams in scoring defense (37.2). They’re also 11th in total offense and total defense.
• Weber State has committed twice as many turnovers (12) as its opponents and is the only winless team in the Big Sky.
• The one positive: Wildcats punter Tony Epperson leads the FCS averaging 51.3 yards per punt.
The Mustangs, by contrast, are third in the Big Sky in scoring offense and third in scoring defense. They’re second in the conference in total defense and lead it with a triple-option rushing attack that averages 326.2 yards per game.
By most accounts, Cal Poly looks like the heavy favorite, but all season long the Big Sky has been praised as a balance conference where any team is good enough to beat every other.
The Wildcats have a chance to prove it, and Sears said their spirits are up.
“The look in their eye has been great,” Sears said. “The spirit has been awesome at practice and meetings. There hasn’t been a lot of complaining. … There hasn’t been a lot of excuses.
“There’s a lot of ownership, and I don’t see any ‘woe is me.’ That’s not how I am, that’s now how our coaches are, and that’s not how we’re going to be.”