Shot in the Recordbook: Wildcats go for their first 6-0 start in school history

Wide receiver Ty MacPherson arms hard for a defender from Eastern Washington in a game won by the Wildcats on October 8, 2022 (Freddie Lacey, Weber State Athletics)

Estimated reading time: 5-6 minutes

Ogden – In 1998 Webber State made their best start to a season ever by winning their first five games in what many hoped would be an extraordinary season.

This year, player number 6 Wildcats repeated that start, and arguably performed better during the first five games. And now the team has a chance to make school history by starting 6-0 for the first time ever.

What is the biggest difference between two versions of soccer teams? After five consecutive wins to start the season, the 1998 team lost their next five games before notching a close season-ending win against Eastern Washington. The team finished the regular season with an average of 6-5.

In those first five games, Webber State’s strongest opponent was No. 11 in Montana in a match the Wildcats won by a touchdown. The attack averaged 27.8 points per game, while the defense gave up only 11.2. Something in the team changed in their five losses that followed. Offensive production dropped to only 14.8 points per game, and defense allowed 22.8 points.

Whatever the reasons, the 1998 Wildcats lost momentum or bragging or whatever you want to call it and they were fortunate to finish the regular season with a positive winning percentage.

Wildcats 2022 is still in the works, but initial results are positive; The team’s current iteration appears to be designed for a more successful finish. With Jay Hill in command, and his mighty coaching crew, the Wildcats won in a relatively dominant fashion.

Offense under first year coordinator Mickey Mintale averages 36.4 points per game and defense only allows 11.8 points per game.

The schedule is getting tougher from here, though, as Weber State travels to Portland State this week, following it up with three games against opponents who currently rank higher than the Wildcats: No. 4 Montana State, No. 3 Montana and No. 5 Sacramento State.

Although it’s hard to find too many faults with the team with such a great start to the season, Hill continues to look for a few improvements, which he believes makes the team great.

“The truth is that when you play good teams, there are going to be some things that happen (that might affect the outcome of the matches),” Hill said afterwards. His team’s 45-21 win over Eastern Washington last week. “One of the most important things is how you deal with adversity, especially when these good teams are playing.

“There’s a lot to clean up, so I take a positive approach to that when we clean up the little things, we have a chance to be really good.”

Wildcats are already “really good,” at least according to two major ratings from the FCS National. This week, Weber State Ranked #6 in the FCS Rankings performance statistics and the FCS Coaches survey. And while Portland State isn’t a picnic, it’s easy to get distracted at the thought of three grueling matches against higher-ranking opponents.

Webber State linebacker Donta McMillan scores against UC Davis in a game won by the Wildcats, 17-12, on September 24, 2022.
Webber State running quarterback Donta McMillan scores a defeat against UC Davis in a game won by the Wildcats, 17-12, on September 24, 2022 (Photo: Robert Casey, Webber State Athletics)

Webber State’s offense has arguably been the biggest reason for the team’s success to date. The Wildcats have scored 35 or more points in four out of five games this year.

Nice quarterback Bronson Barron completed 65% of his passes, thrown for 1,160 yards and eight touchdowns, in addition to his four interceptions. Barron has also done a great job distributing the ball to 11 different players, who have had a pass from him this season.

To go along with an above-average passing game, Weber State posts a steady set of running backs each capable of capturing quality yardage when needed. Sophomore Damon Bankston leads the team with 348 rushing yards, closely followed by Josh Davis for 338 yards.

Dontae McMillan only has 182 yards on the season, but he picked 93 of those in the game against Eastern Washington when he averaged more than 10 yards per carry.

“What we are starting to see in the team is that players are advancing and playing important roles,” Hill said.

Portland State may only be 2-3 on the season, but they entered Saturday’s game having won their last two games, giving them some momentum to keep up with their home field advantage. And with Weber State’s undefeated record, every team is relishing the opportunity to hand the Wildcats their first loss of the season.

Hill’s team will be looking to do something not done at Ogden and get to 6-0, and the Vikings are the only thing standing in their way.

“You better be ready to go because (the opponents) will give you their best shots and we know that,” Hill said.

Hill’s 100th game at Webber State

This weekend against Portland State will be Hill’s 100th game as Webber State coach. Hill is currently in his ninth season as head coach and has amassed a record 63-36 (63.6%), a good number for a second place finish at Webber State. His 63 wins are the highest in the school’s history.

Hill devoted himself to the university and the football team throughout his tenure as a coach. His name has come up many times over the years for potential internships at other, larger universities, but Hill and his family love where it is and have said it’s impossible to achieve the success he has at Weber State without giving everything he has for the program.

“I don’t think you can be successful anywhere in college football unless you’re all working on your job, the players and the programme,” Hill said. “…Weber State has been good to me and my family, we love it at Ogden and we love the program and love the players.

“But there is no way to succeed unless you are all involved, and that’s how I feel about these guys, and I have to be all or not give them my best.”

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