Amidst oppressive winds, the No. 13 Weber State University football team went head to head with the No. 3 Eastern Washington University Eagles at Stewart Stadium, winning their fourth homecoming game in a row.
The Wildcats took a 14–6 win in front of 8,211 fans and improved their record to 4–2 on the season.
“It was a great team win,” head coach Jay Hill said. “The defense played great. The offense got the critical first downs we needed in the fourth quarter.”
EWU came into the contest averaging 45.3 points per game through six contests. Before a majority of the crowd found their seats, the Wildcat defense forced the Eagles into a game-opening three and out.
Staring into the wind, Eastern Washington punted the ball to WSU freshman redshirt running back Josh Davis, who was backed up to the 25-yard line. Davis ran it back 75 yards untouched to put the ’Cats up 7–0 less than two minutes into the game.
Davis was recently one of 15 players named to the STATS FCS Jerry Rice watchlist, which honors the nation’s top freshman. The award will be announced after the season.
Davis carried much of the workload in the first half with 11 carries for 52 yards but was sidelined the second half due to an illness.
The rest of WSU’s backfield proved they were capable of picking up the slack, as senior running back Treshawn Garrett plowed through defenders and the clock with reckless abandon. Garrett finished with 71 yards on 19 carries, most of which came in the final minutes of the game.
On the Eagles’ third possession, WSU senior safety Jawian Harrison Jr. made a statement — flattening Eastern Washington backup sophomore quarterback Eric Barriere to force their third three and out in as many drives.
Through the first three possessions, the Wildcats held the Eagles offense to -7 yards.
Weber State started off their third possession inside EWU territory after a short punt. Sophomore quarterback Jake Constantine found sophomore wide receiver Rashid Shaheed diving in the end zone from 38 yards out to give the Wildcats a 14-0 lead.
The Wildcats wouldn’t score for the remainder of the contest.
The Eagles were left without an answer after they found themselves buried beneath a two-score deficit. The Wildcats turned the field into a no-fly zone for Barriere, who struggled to find a rhythm. He completed just 45 percent of his passes and finished the night with 185 yards, two interceptions and no touchdowns.
Early in the second quarter, EWU fought back with a drive into WSU territory, but Harrison Jr. and redshirt freshman defensive end George Tarlas combined for a stop on fourth down.
Following the stop, the Wildcats marched down the field but were stopped shy of the end zone. They opted for a field goal, but sophomore kicker Trey Tuttle’s 34-yard attempt was blocked.
The Wildcats found themselves in pristine position for a third touchdown midway through the second quarter, converting a fourth down on a short run by Davis during the drive before they committed their lone turnover of the game. Constantine fumbled the ball away to give the Eagles another opportunity to turn the tide in their favor.
After the fumble recovery, Eastern Washington stormed down the field into the red zone. However, the visitors settled for a field goal following the pummeling of an Eagles receiver at the goal line, again from Harrison Jr.
“We came in with the goal to hold them under 100 rushing yards,” Harrison Jr. said. “We knew they had a very good passing attack with or without (starting quarterback Gage) Gubrud. We just had to bow up this week and take on the opportunity to play a good team.”
The ‘Cats led 14–3 at the half. The Wildcat defense performed admirably throughout the second half, as the Eagles only mustered a field goal in the game’s final thirty minutes. Several EWU drives were snuffed out, including two fourth-quarter interceptions.
With just over 9:30 left in the game, the Eagles offense drove down the field, eventually finding themselves at the 8-yard line and eyeing a game-tying touchdown. On that third down pass by Barriere, it was Harrison Jr. who came up with an interception in the back of the end zone, flipping all momentum back to the Wildcats.
“I was actually just supposed to help the receiver to the right side,” Harrison Jr. said. “But I just read the quarterback’s eyes, and I knew No. 5 (senior wide receiver Nsimba Webster) had been having a good season; a backup quarterback is going to look for No. 5. I just felt like that’s where he was going, and I jumped it.”
Senior linebacker Landon Stice sealed the victory with an interception on EWU’s final drive of the game, leaving 1:54 left on the clock.
Battling the wind all afternoon, junior punter Doug Lloyd was a reliable piece in the Wildcats special teams unit, connecting on eight punts for a total of 320 yards. Lloyd has averaged 39.8 yards per punt this season.
The Wildcats converted three third downs in the fourth quarter, after going 1 of 11 through the first three quarters. Garrett ran for all three, helping seal the deal for the ’Cats fourth win of the season.
“We went up against a good defense,” Hill said. “We went into the wind the first three quarters. We don’t make excuses, but it was a factor in this game.”
Weber State has won two consecutive games against Eastern Washington, after a 28–20 victory in Cheney last November. In the last three matchups between the two Big Sky Conference foes, WSU’s defense has held EWU to a combined 40 points.
“The players do a great job preparing for this game. They watched a lot of film. I liked the way they practiced,” Hill said. “They get up for it, and it’s a big deal to us. I think they flourish under the challenge.”
For the first time since 2008, the Eagles were locked out of the end zone. The win marked the first time in 10 years Weber State knocked off an opponent ranked in the top five. The previous occurrence was a victory at No. 3 Cal Poly in the 2008 FCS playoffs.
Weber State will take on the Montana State University Bobcats on Oct. 20 at 4 p.m. at Stewart Stadium.