The Weber State football team began a new chapter in program history with a 45-14 loss to No. 19 Arizona State on Thursday night.
“Arizona State did what you would expect a team like that to do and they are a terrific team,” said Weber State head coach Jay Hill in a statement after the loss. “I’m disappointed that we didn’t defend better than we did. We didn’t stick to our plan to win and made too many mistakes. I thought our guys took a bunch of punches but they bounced back and played hard. There are no moral victories. We had some positive things happen but the bottom line is we have to get better as a team.”
After being held scoreless during the first half, the Wildcats scored their first points of the season with 7:35 remaining in the third quarter on a 19-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Billy Green to senior wide receiver Shaydon Kehano.
The touchdown was Green’s first as a Wildcat, and Kehano’s first since Nov. 2 last year, when he caught a 43-yard touchdown pass.
Kehano finished the night with 99 yards receiving on six receptions. His 99 yard performance moved Kehano to 20th all-time with 1,367 career receiving yards, passing former Wildcat Ryan Nath (1,360 receiving yards).
Sophomore running back Zach Smith had one of the big highlights of the night, breaking away in the fourth quarter for a 60-yard touchdown run. The 60-yard run was a new career best for Smith, and was the longest scoring run by Weber State since their season opener last year against Stephen F. Austin, when Smith had a then-career best 57-yard touchdown run.
Smith finished the night with 128 yards rushing on 16 attempts and one touchdown. He was the first Wildcat with more than 100 yards rushing in a game since C.J. Tuckett in 2012.
“It was good for us to see where we stand,” Smith said in a statement. “We didn’t give up at all and kept fighting. We hate losing but we will get back and be ready to go next week.”
In his first start as a Wildcat, Green completed 14 of 29 passes for 156 yards and a touchdown. Green came close to scoring a second touchdown in the first half on third and goal at the Arizona State one-yard line, when he attempted to run into the endzone, but was called down inches from the goal line by the referees.
The Wildcats attempted to run the ball in on fourth down, but Smith was tackled by Sun Devils defensive lineman Marcus Washington for no gain and the Wildcats turned over the ball on downs.
The Wildcats did not throw an interception or lose a fumble for the first time since Oct. 12 last season, when they were shutout by Cal Poly 47-0. Their zero turnover performance was significant, because it snapped Arizona State’s 29-game streak with at least one forced turnover. The Sun Devils streak had been the second longest active streak in the nation, only trailing Missouri’s 44-game streak.
The Wildcats will return to Ogden this week, as they host North Dakota State in their home opener on Sept. 6. Weber State has won five of their last six home openers, their only loss coming in 2012, when McNeese College beat the Wildcats 35-21.