A new opponent, the same old story — the Weber State University football team struggled right out of the gate and fell to Portland State University 45-24 on Saturday.
“Defensively, we just wore down a little bit in the second half,” said WSU head coach Jody Sears. “We missed some tackles that we usually make. Guys were maybe trying to do too much. But being able to sustain drives and our depth at defense really reared its ugly head.”
The Wildcats once again struggled stopping the run, giving up 350 yards and four touchdowns. On the flip side, WSU was unable to rush the ball well, gaining just 59 yards on the ground.
“We have many weapons, many guys that can run the ball,” said PSU running back D.J. Adams. “Nate (Tago) came in and did great today.”
After a three-and-out for the Vikings to start the game, the Wildcats received the ball just inside the 30-yard line. On their first possession, the Wildcats handed the ball off to sophomore Josh Booker, who fumbled it right back to PSU. The defense held strong, holding the Vikings to just a field goal.
The Wildcats went three-and-out on their next possession and had to punt. The Vikings wasted no time, driving down the short field and finishing the drive with a 36-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Collin Ramirez to wide receiver Thomas Carter. That brought the score to 10-0.
The Wildcats went on a drive of their own on the next possession. Quarterback Austin Chipoletti continued to hit his favorite target, Erik Walker, on multiple occasions. The Wildcats drove the ball to the 10-yard line but were held to a field goal, bringing them to within seven points.
To start the second quarter, the Vikings were again driving. The Vikings once again had a short field and scored on a rushing touchdown by Adams. That brought the score to 17-3.
After a blocked field goal for the Wildcats and a defensive stop, WSU was again marching down the field when Chipoletti swung a lateral pass that was dropped. The ball was considered a fumble and was picked up by David Edgerson and taken all the way to the end zone, bringing the score to 24-3.
“Hey, that’s ball,” Sears said. “You got to overcome those things and keep plugging and flush that thing and go to the next play. It is what it is.”
The Wildcats finally got into the end zone on a 43-yard touchdown from Chipoletti to receiver Shaydon Kehano, who returned for his first game of the season after an injury. The extra point brought the score to 24-10 with four minutes to go.
“It was nice to see Shaydon back in as a force and making plays,” Sears said. “Chip was doing a good job throwing the ball. We were moving that ball downfield and making some plays.”
After swapping punts, the Vikings ran their two-minute offense to near perfection, driving 74 yards, but missed a field goal at the end of the half.
The Vikings started where they left off to start the third quarter as Adams again ran for a touchdown, this time on a 7-yard score, which brought the score to 31-10.
The Wildcats answered back with a drive of their own. Chipoletti hit Kehano for a 39-yard pass on fourth down. On the next play, Chipoletti kept the ball and went into the end zone, bringing the Wildcats within two scores.
The Vikings clamped down in the fourth quarter, scoring on two long touchdown drives. Tago rushed for both touchdowns, giving PSU a four-touchdown lead.
“We just wore down,” Sears said. “They had 80 plays on offense. Usually when we hit that 60 mark, it’s a little tough.”
The Wildcats attempted a comeback late, scoring on a drive of their own. Chipoletti finished off the drive with a 9-yard touchdown to Walker. However, the Wildcats were unable to recover the onside kick. The final score was 45-24.
Chipoletti finished 26-47 for 331 yards and his first two-touchdown game. Adams rushed for 152 yards and two touchdowns for the Vikings.
“It was good to get things going,” Adams said. “Through our ups and downs, the offensive line has always stayed consistent, and it was good for them to put the puzzle pieces together today.”
Overall, Sears said, he was pleased with Chipoletti’s performance, but there were just a few mistakes that could still be fixed.
“He was rushing a few things,” Sears said. “His youth probably showed up on a few of those. We are going to have to go through a few growing pains with our freshman. We have all the trust in him. He’s a competitor. We just got to keep feeding him.”
The Wildcats will return home next weekend to face Southern Utah University. The game will begin at 1 p.m. at Stewart Stadium.