On Sept. 2, the Weber State University Wildcats kicked off their first game of the season against the University of Montana Western Bulldogs.
Weber State’s defense not only pitched their first shutout in 10 years, but the offense lit up the scoreboard and broke the school record for points scored in a game. The previous school record was 73 points against Portland State back in 2007.
The Wildcats went into the season ranked No. 22 in the FCS Coaches Poll and just outside the top 25 in the STATS FCS rankings. After the win the Wildcats moved up in the FCS Coaches Poll to No. 20, and in the STATS FCS rankings they moved into the No. 25 slot.
WSU was 3–0 all time against the Bulldogs heading into this game, with their most recent contest ending in a 62–6 Wildcat win.
Coming into the match, the Wildcats were expected to dominate, and they still managed to exceed expectations. They played a nearly flawless game, dominating in all three aspects of the sport — offense, defense and special teams.
The offense, which was electric all night, finished the game with 10 total touchdowns and 485 yards on only 74 plays. Senior quarterback Stefan Cantwell accounted for three of those touchdowns, two of those coming off of passes to senior tight end Andrew Vollert and sophomore wide receiver TyJuan Prince.
Cantwell’s third touchdown came off a broken play where he scrambled left and flipped over the defender, energizing an already excited crowd. WSU used their lead to showcase their rushing attack.
Throughout the game, four players scored rushing touchdowns with each of them also picking up at least 50 yards on the ground.
Redshirt freshman David Jones, freshman Rashid Shaheed and junior Treshawn Garrett all crossed the goalline for scores while sophomore Kevin Smith had two touchdowns on the night.
In addition to the four rushers who also picked up significant yardage, junior Brady May and freshman Clay Moss each added touchdowns of their own.
Weber State’s offensive success wasn’t limited to scoring. The Wildcat offense went 12–16 on third down and had possession of the ball for over 38 minutes of the game.
Despite playing in nine games last season, the game against Montana Western was the first career start for Cantwell.
“It’s good to be out there and get that first win out of the way,” Cantwell said.
The defense spent the entire game in command whenever they stepped on the field. They didn’t allow a single first down until almost two minutes into the second half.
The defense also forced five takeaways. Four came off interceptions and the other was a fumble recovery after the Bulldogs failed to recover Jacob DeMaio’s only punt of the game.
Two of those interceptions were made by senior Brigham Young University transfer Jordan Preator, who was playing in his first career game as a member of the Weber State Wildcats.
The Wildcats forced the Bulldogs to go 3–12 on third down conversions and forced eight punts. In addition to forcing turnovers, the ’Cats’ defense bottled up the Bulldogs, giving up only 23 rushing yards and 147 total yards.
No matter the success on offense, the WSU defense made a point to do what they could to stop the Montana Western offense.
“It’s … a big deal. We wanted to make sure they didn’t score,” Preator said.
On special teams, WSU only had to punt the ball away once, and on kickoffs, the longest return they gave up was 19 yards.
Freshman kicker Trey Tuttle knocked in two field goals while senior cornerback Xequille Harry had three punt returns for 96 total yards. His longest return went for 44 yards before eventually being brought down by a defender.
For their next game ,the Wildcats travel to Berkeley, Calif., to battle the California Golden Bears out of the Pac-12 Conference.
After easily taking victory against an NAIA opponent, the game against the Golden Bears represents a significant step up in competition.
“We’ll see how good we really are,” head coach Jay Hill said.
The next home game for the Wildcats will be Sept. 23 against UC Davis.