After a blowout loss last week, the Weber State University football team returned home this week and is getting ready to face Montana State University, the No. 2-ranked team in the nation.
Mike Hoke, who didn’t play in last week’s loss against the University of Montana, is expected to play, but the Wildcats will be without freshman Xavian Johnson, who suffered a neck injury and spent two days in the hospital. Johnson will not play this week, but is expected to recover.
Without Johnson, Hoke will likely look to his favorite receiver on the year, Shaydon Kehano. Kehano has caught 29 passes this season for 657 yards and seven touchdowns. He said that teams have focused more on him defensively, which opens up other areas of the game for WSU.
“It makes me play harder,” Kehano said, “since I know there’s two guys trying to guard me, and it also opens up more creases for the other guys.”
Kamaal Ahmad, director of operations, said that, while the team knows it will be difficult to beat the second-best team in the nation, playing at home will give a big boost to the Wildcats.
“It feels so good to play at our home again,” Ahmad said. “It’s hard to lose confidence in ourselves when we are at home. We have had some setbacks but (are) still confident to win this game. We are playing a tough team, though.”
WSU lost its last two games, including a loss at home to Southern Utah University. MSU has only lost one game on the year, and that was to Pac-12 member and BCS school University of Utah.
Ahmad said it will be important to start the game off well, and try to take the Bobcats by surprise.
“That’s why we have come out very strong in the beginning of the game,” Ahmad said. “That way, it will give us confidence to win the game.”
Over the course of this season, the Wildcats have been a stronger team in the first half, but have slipped in the latter stages and have had multiple games go down to the wire. Ahmad said that, if WSU is going to beat the Bobcats, it will have to put a complete game of football together and play four strong quarters on Saturday.
“Last weekend, we made a few mistakes that cost us the loss,” Ahmad said. “However, we are correcting them to do better at this homecoming game.”
Ahmad said the team has been motivated this week, knowing they will face the No. 2 team in the nation, and that, if the team members can rely on each other, they will do well.
“I told my players that they need to focus on the fundamental of the game,” Ahmad said. “We have to work together as a team to get the win.”
The Bobcats are 8-1 overall and 6-0 in Big Sky play, and, with a win this week, they will clinch at least a share of the Big Sky Conference title. MSU opened the season with a 27-10 loss at the U of U. Since then, they have won eight straight games, which is tied for the second-longest active streak in the nation.
MSU leads the Big Sky in 11 categories. They are first in the league and fifth in the nation in total offense, averaging 458.4 yards per game. The Bobcats lead the Big Sky and are 12th in the nation in total defense at 304.4. They are third in the country in sacks, averaging 3.8 sacks per game.
The Bobcats also have a high-powered offense, and will look to push the WSU defense. MSU is first in the conference in scoring offense with 35.8 points per game, scoring defense, rushing defense, pass efficiency defense, first downs, third down conversion, opponent third down conversions, and fourth down conversions.
“I’m excited for this game; it should be a good one,” Ahmad said. “I’m calling students, families and community to come to support WSU.”
The game will kick off at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Stewart Stadium.