“We didn’t play very good.”
Those were the first words said by Weber State University football coach Jay Hill after the team’s 32–16 loss to Southern Utah University on Oct. 14. The loss was the Wildcats’ second of the season and their first in Big Sky Conference play.
Despite taking the loss on their record, the biggest loss for the Wildcats will be that of senior quarterback Stefan Cantwell, who left the game late in the second quarter with a concussion.
The scoring began just 34 seconds into the game with a 78-yard touchdown pass by SUU’s senior quarterback Patrick Tyler. Weber State responded with a pair of field goals by freshman kicker Trey Tuttle, bringing the score to 7–6 in favor of the Thunderbirds before Tyler threw his second touchdown pass of the game.
After the touchdown, Southern Utah’s freshman kicker Manny Berz missed the extra point, making the score 13–6. On the ensuing kickoff, redshirt freshman kick returner Rashid Shaheed caught the ball on the goal line and brought it 100 yards for the Wildcat touchdown.
The kickoff was the eighth 100-yard kickoff return in school history and earned Shaheed Big Sky Special Teams Player of the Week honors. It was on the next Wildcat drive that Cantwell was hit by the SUU defender while going out of bounds. After the referees conferred, they ruled there would be no foul for targeting, but the hit ended Cantwell’s day.
He was later diagnosed with a concussion, forcing sophomore quarterback Justin Shaw into the game. In Shaw’s first drive of the game, he threw an interception that Southern Utah ran back for a touchdown.
With that score, the Thunderbirds had a 20–13 lead going into halftime. While Cantwell was the most visible loss for the Wildcats, he was not the only member of the team to go down with an injury.
“We’ve got to handle injuries better,” Hill said. “In the second half, we were without our starting snapper, our starting left guard and our starting quarterback.”
After several lackluster drives with Shaw under center, the team made another move and brought in redshirt freshman quarterback Braden Miles. Late in the third quarter Miles led one of the most successful drives of the day for the ’Cats, getting the ball to Southern Utah’s 4-yard line.
The team was ultimately unable to punch it in for the touchdown, but Tuttle converted on his third field goal of the game. Tuttle is now 13–13 on the season in field goals and leads the nation in makes without having missed a field goal.
After a final fourth quarter score by the Thunderbirds, the game was over, with Southern Utah claiming a 32–16 victory.
Despite playing less than one half, Cantwell led the team with 113 passing yards. Shaw had 20 yards, and Miles threw for 33 yards. Shaheed led the team with 52 receiving yards and was followed by senior tight end Andrew Vollert with 37 receiving yards.
“Whether it’s Justin Shaw or Braden Miles, both those guys can play,” Vollert said. “They’ve got to step up, make some plays.”
The loss also dropped the Wildcats from 18 in the STATS FCS poll to 23 and from 16 in the coaches poll to the 23 spot.