Over the past four seasons, the Weber State football team has had four different head coaches.
In roughly the same time period, the Wildcats have gone from a contending team in the Big Sky Conference under former head coach Ron McBride to a perennial bottom-feeder.
The downward turn started when McBride’s successor, John L. Smith, left the team before coaching a single game in 2011 to become the head coach at Arkansas following the Razorbacks’ scandal with Bobby Petrino.
So, when former Utah assistant Jay Hill made the move from Salt Lake City to Ogden, Utah, this season, one of his responsibilities was to add stability to a program that had won just nine games in the previous three seasons combined.
“When I first took over, there was a culture change that needed to take place,” Hill said. “I would say about 90 percent of the players have bought into what we’re doing, and there’s good enough players here that we can win. Now, we’ve got to get them confident.
“Right now, I think there’s a fear to lose. We’ve got to get them confident that they’re going to go out and do everything they can to win. That’s really the culture change that needs to take place now.”
Hill’s attitude has yet to translate into victories for Weber State (0-5, 0-2 Big Sky Conference), but the Wildcats feel as though they are on the verge of a breakthrough.
They’ve been competitive as of late, losing the past three games by an average of 9.7 points. Weber State has also put up yards. The Wildcats rank fourth in the Big Sky and 13th in the FCS with 277.4 passing yards per game.
But their seven fumbles lost rank 11th in the conference and 100th out of 121 FCS teams. Losing an average of nearly two more turnovers per game than its opponents, Weber State has the thirdworst turnover margin in the FCS.
With an average of 82.6 yards per game in penalty yardage, the Wildcats are also the most penalized team in the Big Sky.
“The wins will come as soon as we quit turning the ball over,” Hill said. “That’s been our one Achilles heel. We’ve been up and down the field the last three games and have had a lot of opportunities to put points on the board, but haven’t quite been able to do so because we’re turing it over at inopportune times. Also, penalties. As soon as we eliminate those two factors, we’ll be good right away.”