Ogden • Prior to 2012, Weber State and Northern Colorado were football programs on two distinctly different arcs.
As they prepare for Saturday's 1:30 p.m. kickoff at Stewart Stadium in WSU's final home game of a season that goes beyond disappointing once again the two programs appear headed in opposite directions.
UNC (3-6, 2-4 BSC) has won two of its past three games, including an 18-point comeback against Portland State. The Wildcats (1-8, 1-5) are just trying to end their season on a positive note.
The message from both camps, however, remains the same.
"It's about being consistent and getting better," said second-year UNC coach Earnest Collins. "I didn't come here just to win football games, but to be part of conference championship teams and national championship teams."
All season, Collins and Weber State coach Jody Sears have hammered home the same message: consistency, hard work and focus.
"Since it's the first time being a head coach, it's been a learning experience not only for me but for kids," said Sears, handed the job following spring football when John L. Smith left for Arkansas. "I'm extremely proud of way our staff and our players have stuck together through adversity that we had in the offseason and the adversity we had this season. We haven't fractured, we haven't splintered."
The Wildcats have lost three conference games by 14 total points, which indicates the fine line between success and failure.
From its first Big Sky Conference season in 2006 to 2011, the Bears won five conference games and were 9-58 overall. Last year, his first as UNC head coach, Collins didn't win a game.
In the same time period, WSU was a competitive force in the BSC, going 30-18 with a conference championship. Overall, the Wildcats were 37-33.
"It was an awesome win for a head coach to be part of," Collins said of the victory over Portland State, coming on the heels of a blown loss the week before against Northern Arizona. "It was not so much about me as about seeing the look on the kids' faces."
Sears saw that look three weeks ago in a two-point win at Southern Utah. He'd like to get it back this week and next at Idaho State.
"The state of the team is awesome," Sears said. "We need to move forward and persevere."
Northern Colorado at Weber State
P At Stewart Stadium (Ogden)
Kickoff • Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
TV • None. Radio • 1280 AM
Records • UNC 3-6, 2-4 BSC; WSU 1-8, 1-5
Series record • WSU 6-0
Last meeting • WSU 45, UNC 21 (Sept. 24, 2011)
About the Bears • They rank second in the Big Sky in passing defense, allowing just 217.6 yards passing per game. … Senior Dominic Gunn was named The Sports Network National Special Teams Player of the Week and Big Sky Player of the Week after gaining 182 all-purpose yards, including an 83-yard punt return for a touchdown against Portland State.
About the Wildcats • Freshman Cordero Dixon returned a kickoff for the first time in his career, 100 yards for a touchdown at Montana. ... Back C.J. Tuckett has 133 carries for 583 yards and six touchdowns and ranks ninth in the conference in rushing at 64.8 yards per game. ... WSU has scored 17 touchdowns in the 22 times it has been in the red zone.