GAME DAY GRADES: Football vs. Western Oregon
Updated: Oct 28
The Wildcats took the field at Stewart Stadium Thursday night for the start of what we hope to be a redemption season after the way things ended in 2021. First up, a D2 opponent in the Western Oregon Wolves, who are a replacement game for the canceled second leg of a home and home series with James Madison. The Dukes went up to the FBS level a year early and canceled their home against against Weber State, leaving the Wildcats in a scramble to find an opponent for week 1.
Our panel gives the team grades on offense, defense, and special teams.
Offense (C): Clearly there were moments that they looked good, but it should have been more, overall disappointing.
Defense (A-): The Defense did what was expected, Points taken off for the unsportsmanlike penalties. We’ve got to be more disciplined.
Special Teams (C+): Haze Hadley is what keeps this grade up there. Other than that, there are many mistakes.
Offense (B-): The creativity in the offense was apparent throughout the game. Though I’m certain Coach Mental wasn’t going to open up the playbook in the first game of the season against a D2 opponent, the play calling seemed much better than previous seasons. The team fell short on execution though, especially in the passing game. Just 165 yards through the air, and most of that going to the Tight Ends, as Coach Mental promised. The run game looked ready for this tough schedule, with 6 backs getting touches to total 201 yards. It’s my hope that the QB’s will get more comfortable as the schedule ramps up and the tough defenses of the Big Sky come to town.
Defense (B+): In several aspects, the Defense looked rejuvenated and ready to go. The biggest surprise had to be how well the defensive line played. We noted our worries at the start of this season, mostly due to so much experience leaving through transfer or graduation. But, the next man up mentality took hold and the defensive line was living in the backfield all night, led by Naseme Colvin’s 3.5 TFL’s. One worry though was the lack of sacks on the sophomore Western Oregon QB. The line was not able to drop him once. I hope that changes as they get more experience playing as a unit. The secondary and linebackers looked just fine, with Maxwell Anderson nearly completing the hat trick of three INT’s for the night. The only other thing that must be cleaned up was the penalties, especially Unsportsmanlike Conduct which led Sione Lapuaho to be sent to the locker room early after receiving two. Gotta be more disciplined, because it will get tougher as the season wears on.
Special Teams (C+): Special Teams really struggled early, namely the safety allowed that could have been far worse. Though the field was short in that situation, good Special Teams play is a hallmark of the Jay Hill era in Ogden. That unit will have plenty to work on this week to get back to the high standards Coach Hill has for them. But, on a more positive note, Haze Hadley really shined in his punt returns (131 yards with a 47 yard long in 6 opportunities). Kyle Thompson did miss the 49 yard field goal in the second, but it was his first of the season in a game situation and 49 yards isn’t nothing. After that, he seemed to settle down and nail his subsequent two FGs for 24 and 39 yards, respectively.
Offense (B-): The standard theory is that WSU should throttle a not very good DII 7 days a week. On the gameday show, there was talk that the fellas would be disappointed if the ‘Cats didn’t roll by 70 points. (they didn’t). The truth is, this game was never in doubt. The ‘Cats frankly struggled on offense. I agree with Colby’s assessments. The play calling was much more than the throw two incompletions and run up the middle on third down predictability that we had come to expect over the past few seasons. Was the O great? No. Did they need to be? No. The stats are not stellar, but I did like that the O spread touches across the depth chart. 7 different ball carriers recorded touches and positive yardage gains (leaving out Weisser’s sack on 4th and 7 with 2:52 left). Similarly, there were 9 different receivers that caught at least one pass. The O needs to work on reps and confidence in the plays, but I am encouraged with what Coach Mental is working on.
Defense (A): Again, knowing this was basically a glorified scrimmage, anytime a defense can limit a team to -34 yds rushing, 95 total offensive yards, and 2-14 on third down, there’s not much room for realistic improvement. Will the ‘Cats be this dominant on defense in Logan? No. But right now that’s ok. Remember the two things we want out of our trip to Logan on Saturday 1) did the check clear? And 2) did we get away with no major injuries? If those two things happen, that game is a success. On Thursday night the D controlled the game and were just as much a factor in the W as the O was. The 3 INT’s were great. Not so great was the lack of a sacks. The ‘Cats were able to record 10!!! TFL’s but 0 sacks. Bringing the QB down is an area that needs improvement.
Special Teams (D): Haze is going to be fun to watch, but any time a special teams gaff leads to points for the other team, you aren’t getting a passing grade from me.
Offense (C): I don’t think they were necessarily bad, they just weren’t good. And all of that is to be expected, honestly. It’s a brand new offense. It’s often said that the most improvement is made from week one to week two... I expect to see a much more potent offense against Utah State. Josh Davis was the high point to me. He looked hungry and healthy and that can only be a positive for Weber State. Passing game just wasn’t crisp, though. Biggest stat to me was the the two times Weber State was gifted possessions in the red zone and came away with only field goals. Red Zone scoring needs to improve over last year.
Defense (A): I love our Defense. I have for years. This year’s defense looks like another reloaded team. The secondary is going to be scary for any team to go against, including Utah State. To me the revelations were seeing big Shad Pulsipher lead the team with 7 tackles and Zeke Birch, who just seemed to be in on lots and lots of plays. The steadies this year look like Des Williams, Maxwell Anderson, and Eddie Heckard and I’m excited to watch them play every snap.
Special Teams (C): The bad news is that special teams, especially the punt team, didn’t look great. The good news is that it can be coached. Jay Hill has always had a hand in special teams, so I would imagine a turn around here pretty quickly. Punt return did, however, look great. Haze Hadley did a great Rashid Shaheed impersonation and I hope he turns into a weapon for us.