CEDAR CITY — Southern Utah coach Ed Lamb knows Weber State football’s tendencies and tone.
After all, several of the team’s coaching leaders worked for him less than a year ago. Now, with former SUU coordinators Steve Clark and Justin Ena wearing Wildcats purple, it’s time for the Thunderbirds to see if the background knowledge actually translates to a win Saturday as Weber travels to Eccles Coliseum for each team’s Big Sky conference opener.
Of course Southern Utah is a new team as well, with a new offensive coordinator (former BYU coach Gary Crowton) and a new quarterback (BYU transfer Ammon Olsen). Also, the Thunderbirds have a new defensive coordinator and new receivers coach.
Even though SUU’s schematics have changed from last season, the Thunderbirds’ personnel have remained similar — something Lamb is concerned with.
“(Weber’s knowledge) is a major concern, and it’s an advantage for them in the game,” he said. “They understand our personnel very well, and I think they’re going to try to do their best to attack that. That’s a challenge for us in this game to try and overcome that.”
While the Thunderbirds qualified for the FCS playoffs last season, the 2014 season hasn’t treated SUU as kindly. So far, the Thunderbirds are 0-4, including a 56-14 loss to Fresno State in week four.
The struggles have been disappointing to Lamb, and he said the team has several areas to improve upon.
“It’s just a matter of trying to emphasize and practice the things we need to get better at,” said Lamb, who is in his seventh season as head coach at Southern Utah. “To limit our turnovers, and run the ball better, those two things will have a positive impact on (our team).
Offense has been one of the Thunderbirds’ areas of struggle. For instance, Southern Utah converted only 4-of-16 third downs and finished with only 57 rushing yards. Also, the Thunderbirds turned the ball over twice.
In response to the offensive struggles, Lamb said scoring points will be a premium in conference play.
“Running the ball better is also going to lead to better possessions,” he said.
The two teams have split their matchups the last two seasons, but Weber is 15-5 all-time versus Southern Utah.
Lamb said the two schools have been good rivals for some time.
“With quality rivalries, there’s a back and forth,” he said. “There’s got to be wins on both sides; there’s got to be a mutual respect and a mutual admiration. A one-sided series (is) something I’ve never considered a rivalry.”
With so many storylines in play, Southern Utah’s players have a variety of motivating factors to play for. However, getting a win is the most important one to the Thunderbirds.
“I think (getting a win is important) because of the situation,” he said. “The climate I believe, for both teams, is about an opportunity to play an in-state rival; it’s an opportunity to play the first game of conference. And, because of the fact we haven’t been able to get a victory yet, it’s another opportunity to get a win.”