Weber State running back Kris Parham gets tackled by the BYU defense last week. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Friday, September 14, 2012 8:17 PM
McNeese State faces one of its biggest tests this season in tonight’s game at Big Sky Conference-member Weber State in the Football Championship Subdivision debut for both teams.
“Generally speaking, they’re bigger than what we normally play with,” Viator said. “They’re 285, 290 (pounds) at the tackles. They have a 6-4, 220 safety. And they’re very-well coached. I’ve always liked the way the whole conference played.”
The Cowboys (2-0) have had a better start to the year, knocking off Bowl Subdivision Middle Tennessee State before a laugher over Division II newbie McMurry. It’s been much tougher sledding for the Wildcats (0-2), who opened with back-to-back FBS losses to Fresno State and Brigham Young.
“Getting back to an even playing field, we’re looking forward to it,” said Weber State interim coach Jody Sears. “But by no means do we have a slouch coming in in McNeese State. We’re looking forward to playing at home under the lights.”
Sears is searching for his first career win as a head coach. He took over the program after spring practice when John L. Smith abruptly left for Arkansas after Bobby Petrino’s firing in April. Smith had taken over at Weber State for Ron McBride, who retired after last season.
Sears has faced McNeese before as a defensive coordinator, calling the plays in Eastern Washington’s 44-15 win over the unbeaten Cowboys in the first round of the 2007 playoffs.
Both the Cowboys and Wildcats are playoff hopefuls, which may give this game a November feel in mid-September — which fortunately for McNeese does not include November temperatures in Utah.
“If you want to make the playoffs, these are the kinds of teams you’re going to be playing,” Sears said. “It’s a chance to buckle up, get after it and have some competition. I’d have liked to have had only one FBS before these guys. I’m a fan of (this game) today. We’ll see after next week.”
The Cowboys will likely continue trying to ride a punishing rushing attack led by their veteran offensive line.
McNeese is averaging almost 300 yards a game on the ground, running for virtually the same yardage against Middle Tennessee and McMurry with a combination of six backs.
Weber State is allowing 221 yards per game on the ground.
Viator was highly complimentary of Weber State’s secondary.
“I thought they did an excellent job of covering both Fresno and BYU’s receivers,” Viator said.
Viator said he expects the Wildcats to commit to their own rushing attack more than they did in the first two games.
“I read they were disappointed they didn’t run more in the BYU game, so I would definitely expect that,” Viator said.
Quarterback Mike Hoke leads the Wildcats with 25 rushing attempts — 10 of which were sacks — but running back C.J. Tuckett is a dangerous weapon in the backfield. Tuckett had a 27-carry, 254-yard performance against Idaho State in Weber’s last home game of 2011.
NOTES: Today’s game is the first of a home-and-home series between the schools that will be completed next year. The series is tied 1-1 with McNeese winning the last meeting 23-22 in Ogden on a last-second Jose Larios field goal in 1992. … The game will be broadcast online at www.BigSkyTV.org