GAME DAY GRADES: Football vs. Eastern Washington
Updated: Oct 28
Photo Credit: Robert Casey, Weber State Athletics
Homecoming was in full swing Saturday and Stewart Stadium was rocking under the lovely glow of the lit up W on the mountain above.
The Wildcats came out swinging against the 1-4 Eastern Washington Eagles and pulled away in the second half. Our panel handed out their grades for the offense, defense, and special teams after a convincing win over a regular in-conference foe.
The offense came out swinging once again and I think it’s something we can come to expect from Coach Mental. He wants to get going and do it in a hurry, calling plays that give Barron the chance to throw deep before the defense settles in too much. And, as promised, we saw another very balanced outing, with 223 yards rushing and 237 yards passing. But, I’m concerned with the 3rd down conversions, just 4 of 11. Eastern doesn’t have the toughest defense in the conference and if the Wildcats hope to be competitive against the likes of Montana State, Montana, and Sac State, the conversions will have to improve. In addition, turnovers were a problem again. The Wildcats gave up an easy scoop and score in the 3rd quarter, gifting the Eagles their only points of the second half. Taking care of the football will need to continue to be a priority and, as Coach Hill emphasizes all the time, winning the turnover battle.
The Wildcat defense continues to impress, especially with second half adjustments the shut the Eagle offense down in the third and fourth quarters. The Wildcats allowed the Eagles to reach the red zone just one time, resulting in a touchdown. In addition, Maxwell Anderson made EWU QB Gunner Talkington pay with an interception of a ball that sailed on him. The Weber State secondary puts so much pressure on quarterbacks to be sure when they throw. If they aren’t, interceptions continue to be the result. Weber State continues to lead the country with 11 on the year, 5 of which are belong to Maxwell Anderson. I should also give Desmond Williams a shoutout for forcing a fumble that was not called (and apparently not reviewable). That play didn’t go the Wildcats’ way, but it’s effort like that which will pay dividends when it matters. We also saw a big jump in the sack numbers this weekend. Weber State came away with 5 on the day, 2 of which belonged to Redshirt Freshman DE Nuu Sellesin. That dude has been working this year and has the potential to develop in to an All-Conference guy (and maybe an All-American) by the time he hangs it up. If there’s a critique of the defense that could be had from this one, it’s allowing 3rd down conversions. The Wildcats have been very good at snuffing out drives on 3rd down this season, but the Eagles converted 9 out 17 attempts on 3rd down for a 53% success rate. Getting back to sub-40% opponent success rates will be critical to keeping the defense off the field and fresh for the long haul against tougher opponents.
Special Teams: B
Special Teams continues to improve each week and we saw a bit of Jay Hill trickeration a few times in this one. Two fake punts that went for first downs. Unfortunately, one of those first downs was erased by a fumble in the same play. Turnovers are an issue that have got to improve, but I won’t belabor the point, since we’ve already talked about it here. I was also surprised to see Kyle Thompson miss a 39 yard field goal to close the first half, but he’s been very good this season and there are few knits to pick. Another high point was the Abraham Williams 100-yard kick return for a touchdown. I was so happy to see the Wildcats return to being a legitimate threat on kickoffs.
The offense was solid. Colby hit the nail on the head. We need to do better on 3rd down, I missed the scoop and score, waiting 45 minutes for pizza. So, I can’t really talk about that. There was some questionable decision making at the end of the first half, but I liked the idea of keeping the ball out of EWU’s hands at the end of the half. I’ve been a Bronson supporter for a long time. He’s been looking incredible this season. There was a play in the first half where you could see him look at his first option, then his second option and neither were open so he scrambled. This is the type of maturation I’m looking for. Kris Jackson might have a career in the NFL just running from the 2 yard line and sniping touchdowns. The Law Firm of Davis, McMillan and Bankston continues to impress. We certainly aren’t hurting for solid running backs. The B is simply because I know they can do better so here’s a bit of a low grade to encourage them for the next few weeks.
I don’t have a whole lot to knit pick here, they didn’t let EWU go off, and they are a bunch of ball hawks that will make opposing QB’s frustrated. I was impressed with the series where we had the fumble return overturned, the Sack followed by the Intentional Grounding was impressive. They seemed to struggle to get off the field in the first half, but they turned that around. Overall, if they continue to play like this, we will be very hard to beat.
Special Teams: C+
I’m going to be a bit harsh here. Abraham Williams' return was amazing, but the missed field goal at the end of the first half and the fumbled fake are all things we can’t be doing. They are getting better but this is an area that we’ve excelled at for so long and need to shore up to make sure we aren’t leaving points on the field against those pesky schools up North.