When Weber State and Southern Utah collide Saturday night in their annual Big Sky Conference rivalry game in Cedar City, recent roles will be reversed.

The Wildcats have won four straight games for the first time since 2008, including three in league play, and will attempt to remain at the top of the Big Sky standings.

Southern Utah, last year's conference champion, likely needs a win to stay alive in the Big Sky race.

A year ago, the Thunderbirds handed the Wildcats a 44-0 defeat, which was shocking because of the lopsided margin.

"Quite frankly," said Wildcat coach Jay Hill, "they kicked our butt. So, obviously, they have our full attention."

Southern Utah has won four of its past five games against Weber State, including three in a row.

"Right now," Hill said, "we have to win some of these games to create the rivalry this should be. … Both teams have to be consistently good, vying for championship and have more on line than in-state bragging rights. That's a rivalry."

Since a 45-6 loss in the season opener at Utah State, Weber has improved. The 'Cats beat Montana State last week, 45-27. They jumped to a 42-14 halftime lead.

"We were able to get the turnover margin in our favor — finally," Hill said. "That was huge."

How have the Wildcats been able to rebound from the defeat at Utah State?

"Staying the course, practicing hard," Hill said. "I feel we have enough talent. So I'd say we have just practiced the right way and played the right way.'"

Offensively, the Wildcats are led by senior quarterback Jadrian Clark. He threw for 266 yards and four touchdowns against Montana State. In the lopsided first half, he was 18 of 21 for 198 yards.

"His efficiency throwing the ball was huge," Hill said. "He was 'on.' He was very accurate."

Southern Utah has been a bit up-and-down under first-year head coach Demario Warren.

With four minutes left in last week's 45-23 loss at North Dakota, the Thunderbirds trailed, 31-23. They had a first down at the Fighting Hawks' 19-yard line, but a missed field goal. Two late North Dakota touchdowns followed.

Warren knows bouncing back against Weber will be a challenge.

"They've got it going right now," he said. "… They have a lot of talented players — guys who know the system."

Regarding the rivalry, he said, "Records, previous games, stats, everything goes out the window. … A lot of the kids know each other. So it's personal. And it's great for the state of Utah."

luhm@sltrib.com

Twitter: @sluhm