(Photo: Allyson Cummings/WCSN)
Snapshot of Weber State
Simply put, saying Weber State struggled in 2013 would is an understatement.
The Wildcats won their first and last games of the season, but had a 10-game losing streak sandwiched in-between. To make matters worse, John Smith, the former Division I coach who was heralded as the savior and rejuvenator of Weber State football, quit four months into his job.
But, the past is in the past, and Weber State is undoubtedly approaching the 2014 season with a fresh outlook.
The program features a slew of first-year personnel, including head coach Jay Hill, offensive coordinator Steve Clark, defensive coordinator Justin Ena, and BYU transfer and starting quarterback Billy Green.
The meeting between Arizona State and Weber State on Thursday will be the first ever meeting between the two schools. For the Wildcats, the contest marks the commencement of gauntlet of a schedule. After traveling to Tempe to face the No. 19 Sun Devils, Weber State welcomes the three-time FCS champion and current No. 1 FCS ranked team in North Dakota State. Four of the team’s first five games are away from Stewart Stadium in Ogden, Utah—a menacing reality considering the 0-7 mark that the Wildcats posted on the road in 2013.
Matchup to Watch
Bo Bolen vs. ASU special teams
Not many pundits, nor head coach Todd Graham, expect Weber State to have much success in any facet of the game, as the Sun Devils outmatch them at nearly every position.
With that being said, the ASU special teams performance of 2013 was downright atrocious (119th in the nation in net punting, 93rd in punt-return coverage and 64th in kickoff coverage).
Enter Bo Bolen, an All-American senior running back and kick returner, who has had one of the most storied athletic careers in the history of Weber State (perhaps second only to Damian Lillard?).
Bolen currently ranks 11th in Weber State history in rushing yards and third in all-purpose yards. More importantly and more relevant to Thursday’s game though, he ranks second in the school’s history in return yards, averaging 24.7 return yards per kick.
If the 2013 debacle resurfaces, or if the Sun Devils take a few weeks to acclimate to the revamping of the special teams unit and scheme, Bolen could be in line for a monster performance.
ASU wins if:
Todd Graham is truly the coach everyone perceives him to be.
It is no secret that the Sun Devils are a far superior team when it comes to physical ability and athleticism.
At the same time, in the back of every Division I team’s mind is an inkling of a worry about becoming the next “Appalachian State” –victim. Graham has reiterated in various interviews that games against FCS opponents worry him due to the lack of surrounding hype and the lack of scouting information available.
These factors could result in many teams being unmotivated and uninspired. But with the intensity that is fostered by a Graham-led unit, a mental let-down is hardly a possibility.
“I was talking to our players today about how you compete and the passion and the intensity that it takes,” Graham said. “We’re going to get after it. How we compete and the intense focus that we have is the foundation that we are laying for the championships that are coming,”
ASU loses if:
All of Tempe bursts into flames due to the whopping 105-degree temperatures forecasted for Thursday, resulting in Sun Devil Stadium being rendered unplayable and a forfeit demanded by Weber State.
Crazier outcomes have resulted, namely Appalachian State shocking the fifth-ranked Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor to kick off the 2007 season. It should also be noted that Eastern Washington dismantled Oregon State just a year ago in Corvallis.
But all jokes aside, it is tough to overlook the fact that Weber State was outscored 497-190 last year and is 4-19 in the past two seasons.
Combine that with the fact that ASU is poised to score in bunches with senior quarterback Taylor Kelly and NFL-ready receiver Jaelen Strong leading the charge, and it is safe to assume that ASU will come away from Thursday with a clean 1-0 record.
Arizona State 63
Weber State 13