College football • Wildcats grew from FBS losses, coach says.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
As Weber State prepares to play McNeese State, it is possible the Wildcats benefitted more than just financially from their rugged early schedule.
Wildcats coach Jody Sears compared Fresno State and BYU, saying the Bulldogs were faster while the stronger Cougars presented various matchup problems, especially on defense.
Weber State also reportedly earned about $700,000 in guarantees to play the two Football Bowl Subdivision teams, losing by a combined 82-23.
But as the Wildcats return to Football Championship Subdivision competition, Sears said the games helped "grow the team."
"It was a tall order," Sears said about opening against two FBS teams. "Getting back to FCS is good. We're looking forward to it."
"I was disappointed we didn't finish strong [against BYU]. But I was pleased with the kids. … They played to win and attacked."
Sears is also excited about finally playing a home game. Saturday's clash against No. 19 McNeese State (2-0) kicks off at 6 p.m. in Stewart Stadium.
The Cowboys defeated FBS team Middle Tennessee 27-21 before pummeling Division III McMurry 69-7.
"[McNeese State] brings in a fairly veteran team," Sears said.
"You can tell by the way they play that they've played a lot of football."
Sears sees Tony Epperson as Weber State's version of Gordie Lockbaum.
Lockbaum was an All-American in the mid-'80s who played offense, defense and special teams and eventually finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy for then-Division IAA Holy Cross. Epperson also performs double duty as the Wildcats' punter and safety.
It was as a punter that Epperson may have made his greatest contribution.
His 10 kicks against BYU, including a 74-yarder in the first quarter, for a 50.7 average, became the fourth best single-game punting average in school history.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior from Park City, who Sears said was "a hamburger shy of being an outside linebacker" also had a team-high 10 tackles, intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble.
McNeese State at Weber State