After taming the South Dakota Coyotes, The Weber State University Wildcats welcomed the University of Northern Colorado Bears into Stewart Stadium on Sept. 22. WSU came into the game ranked seventh in the FCS STATS poll while the Bears were searching for their first win of the season.
The ‘Cats clinched three victories in a row with a 45–28 triumph in front of nearly 9,000 fans. For the Wildcats, freshman running back Josh Davis was on fire with 30 carries for 218 yards and two touchdowns.
“I wouldn’t say it was my running,” Davis said. “I had the line blocking for me, I had (senior fullback) Brady May, I had the tight ends and I had the wide receivers blocking downfield.”
The Wildcats emerged from the locker room donned in throwback uniforms, the flying W logo emblazoned on their helmets honoring the 1968 Wildcat team, celebrating the 50th anniversary of its Big Sky Conference title.
The ‘Cats had never lost to the Bears in Ogden when game time approached and had only been defeated once in the all-time series.
The first quarter was explosive. The Bears scored an early touchdown, bringing a hush over the stadium. However, the Wildcats answered quickly.
WSU benefited from a connection as sophomore quarterback Jake Constantine found wide receiver Rashid Shaheed, resulting in a 46-yard touchdown that tied the game at 7-all.
After the scoring drive, the Wildcats defense nearly gave up another touchdown, but sophomore defensive lineman Jared Schiess forced a red zone fumble that was recovered by junior safety Trey Hoskins.
Two plays later, freshman running back Josh Davis ripped off the third longest run in Weber State history. He found a hole and ran 95 yards untouched for a score, to give his team a 14–7 lead after one quarter.
The second quarter began after a lengthy Weber State drive that landed them in the red zone. The Wildcats took advantage of the field position and switched to freshman quarterback Kaden Jenks, who hooked up with senior wide receiver Darryl Denby for a 18 yard touchdown.
Weber State went for an onside kick and nearly recovered but couldn’t get a grip on the ball, and UNC took control. Any momentum gained by the Bears was quickly stalled.
One penalty, two sacks and an incompletion would end the Bears’ threat and spark an energy that fueled the hometown ‘Cats. However, UNC answered to end the half.
Sophomore quarterback Keaton Mott came through with a 22-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Theron Verna to bring the visitors within a score. Five minutes, Mott found senior wide receiver Alex Wesley from 42 yards out to tie the contest at 21 heading into the half.
Whatever the Wildcats discussed in the locker room, it was felt on the opening kickoff as Shaheed turned on the jets and took the second half kickoff from one end zone to the other for a 100-yard kick return touchdown. The score matched Shaheed’s 100-yard runback last season against Southern Utah University.
WSU head coach Jay Hill had a simple message after the game.
“(Shaheed) is the best kick returner in the country,” Hill said.
Shaheed’s exploits earned him Big Sky special teams player of the week.
On the next drive, junior cornerback Jeremy Maxwell intercepted a pass on third down to place the Wildcat offense just outside the red zone. After some short gains, Davis punched in a touchdown from two yards to push the lead to 35–21.
The Bears added a touchdown drive of their own to cut the lead down to 35–28 after three quarters, giving WSU fans a sense of uneasiness.
The fourth quarter began with the possibility of a wild finish. Senior cornerback Keilan Benjamin picked off a pass, but the Wildcats coughed up the ball two plays later.
However, the quarter slowed in action until sophomore kicker Trey Tuttle connected on a 31-yard field goal to give the Wildcats breathing room with a 38–28 lead.
As the clock began to tick on the Bears’ chances, the Wildcats picked up a fourth down stop with 2:48 remaining. With 1:15 left on the clock, Constantine hit third-year tight end Junior Latu for a three-yard touchdown to push the advantage to 45–28, which is where it ended.
When the final horn rang, the Wildcats were victorious and bolstered their record to 3–1 while the Bears dropped to 0–4 on the season. The ‘Cats are now ranked sixth in the FCS Stats poll.
Both teams combined for 18 penalties and 190 yards worth of penalties.
“That game just got ugly on both sides,” Hill said. “Penalties, turnovers and every year it seems like you have one or two of those, and the key to those is win them.”
The contest also featured four targeting penalties (two on each team), resulting in ejections. As a rule, the disqualified participants will miss the first halves of their next games.
Senior linebacker LeGrand Toia is not on board with the rule.
“I hate targeting,” Toia said. “It’s a dumb rule. Football is a physical sport, and it’s gonna be violent. Just don’t come across the middle if you don’t want to get hit.”
The Wildcats are idle this week, but will be back in action on Oct. 6 to face off against the 2–2 Northern Arizona University Lumberjacks. The ‘Cats then return home Oct. 13 for a homecoming matchup with Eastern Washington University.