By Ray Hamill — After what has been a tumultuous summer to say the least, not to mention a disappointing start to the season, Humboldt State football returns to the Redwood Bowl on Saturday for the Lumberjacks’ home opener.
The Jacks will play just four home games this season after the decision was made to cut the team by the school administration in July, giving local fans just four more opportunities to see the team in action.
And that begins on Saturday evening at 6 p.m., against an old foe in Western Oregon, and a team that has struggled almost as much as the Jacks through the early season.
HSU is off to an 0-2 start, after a pair of tough road contests against two top-10 nationally ranked teams.
The Wolves, meanwhile, are 0-3, having lost three straight home games, including a 50-17 defeat to Central Washington two weeks ago.
The Jacks fell 49-0 at Central Washington last weekend, the first time they were shut out since 2007.
Interestingly, the Wolves have scored 17 points in each of their first three games.
Looking for a response
After last week’s disappointing showing in Washington, HSU head coach Damaro Wheeler will be looking for a response from his players this weekend.
Despite the Wolves’ record, however, Wheeler is expecting a tough contest.
“Western Oregon always plays us tough,” he said. “They’re a scrappy team, a competitive team, and even though they’re 0-3 they’ve been in every game at some point, so it’s going to be a tough battle.”
Last week, WOU fell 28-17 to Azusa Pacific, while in week one, they fell 24-17 to Angelo State.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Jacks will have to account for two dynamic players, including linebacker Bo Highburger, who was named Great Northwest Athletic Conference defensive player of the week after recording 11 tackles and forcing two fumbles against Azusa.
Fellow linebacker Nathaniel Proctor will also have to be accounted for.
“They’ve always got good linebackers,” Wheeler said of the Wolves defense. “And they’ve got a really good front, and they’ve always got a couple of guys that can change the game.”
Key for the Jacks on the other side of the ball will be slowing down a strong Wolves running attack, an area they had problems with last week.
“We’ve got to stop the run and eliminate the big plays,” Wheeler said. “And if we do that, we should be okay.”
Tingstad to start at quarterback
After a three-way battle at quarterback through preseason, and all three players seeing some action at Central Washington, sophomore Andrew Tingstad will get his first start on Saturday.
“Like I’ve said all along, I thought he had the potential to be the best overall of the three,” Wheeler said of the Washington native. “He showed some flashes last week.”
The Jacks, however, will need more than a boost at quarterback if they are to get their season on track, and Wheeler knows he needs a big improvement from all of his players.
And he believes they have it in them to do that.
“The good thing about this team is they realize they left a lot of plays on the field (last week),” the head coach said. “They understand they’ve got to trust the process, and if we do our job, we’ll be okay.”
Saturday’s game will be broadcast live on the local ESPN affiliate, KATA 1340 AM and 92.7 FM.