In the second round of the FCS playoffs, the Weber State University Wildcats welcomed the Southeast Missouri Redhawks to Stewart Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The Wildcats started slow but torched the Redhawks to a tune of 48–23 and advanced to the quarterfinals of the FCS Playoffs.
Head Coach Jay Hill said, “It was an awesome team win, I liked the intensity of the crowd and the way the players handled it.”
Sophomore All-American kicker Trey Tuttle kicked the ball deep and the battle between the Redhawks and the Wildcats was underway. From the moment this game kicked off, it was visible that this was going to be a game with hard hits, trash talk and lots of emotion.
Both teams had players getting into the face of their counterparts and hits after the whistle. The defenses both came out to play in the first quarter, both offenses couldn’t get anything going.
The Redhawks struck first in the big play category as their punt returner made a man miss and took it down inside the 20-yard line before being forced out of bounds.
After forcing a long third down, the Redhawks found a man open inside the five-yard line and would eventually run into the endzone to take a 7–0 lead with 25 seconds left in the opening quarter.
After the touchdown, SEMO decided that they would rather kick it short and give the Wildcats decent field position rather than kick it deep to sophomore Rashid Shadeed. Shaheed has two kickoff return touchdowns on the season and Head Coach Jay Hill has dubbed him as the best returner in college football.
The Wildcats responded to the Redhawk touchdown with a score of their own. The Wildcats drove down the field after being given the good field position and sophomore Jake Constantine hooked up from 10 yards out with Shaded knotting the game at 7–7 with 10:00 mins left in the half.
The Wildcats defense came out and quickly forced a Redhawks punt and Shaheed showed off why he’s one of the most explosive players taking it to the house for another WSU touchdown. Unfortunately as the ’Cats celebrated the refs called back the touchdown from an illegal block.
WSU wasn’t able to to convert their possession to any points after Tuttle missed a long field goal.
Senior cornerback Keilan Benjamin intercepted his fifth pass of the season to give the WSU offense the ball in great field position. Constantine again found the end zone, this one going to freshman wide receiver Devon Cooley. WSU came out in the swinging gate formation but failed the two-point conversion giving the Wildcats a 13–7 lead.
With the defense remained strong WSU got the ball back and converted on a fake punt. After converting the fourth down Constantine threw his third touchdown of the game to sophomore Isiah Jackson giving the Wildcats a two possession lead 20–7.
Senior safety Jordan Preator picked off the Redhawks quarterback on the very next possession and returned it 17 yards inside SEMO’s territory.
Constantine continued his scoring ways when he threw his fourth touchdown in second quarter and his second to Jackson. The Wildcats took a 27–7 lead into halftime behind a standing ovation from the Weber State faithful.
Constantine went 17/25, 191 yards and four touchdowns to spark the Wildcat offense while the defense only allowed a touchdown.
“I think it was just me getting more and more comfortable with myself and the offense and ever since that we’ve been rolling,” Constantine said.
The second half kicked off and four minutes later, Jake Constantine was diving into the end-zone for his fifth touchdown of the day. Constantine scrambled and decided to tuck it and run to push the WSU lead to 34-7. The Wildcats defense would then continue to impose their will on the Redhawk offense as senior linebacker Landon Stice came up with an interception to kill a promising Redhawks drive.
SEMO finally found a rhythm on a drive and with 5:32 left in the 3rd quarter punched in a touchdown down by the goal line to cut the Wildcat lead to 34-14. Two minutes into the fourth quarter, SEMO added more points on the board after nailing a 45-yard field goal to trim the lead to 34-17 with much more confidence than the previous three quarters. As the Redhawks began to gain momentum and was in search for another big play, their defense was crossing the goal line a few players later off of a fumble and the lead was now 34-23 with 12:41 left on the clock.
It was time for a big Weber State drive and a big drive was delivered. After getting down inside the 10-yard line, The Wildcats brought the field goal unit out to kick but instead, the Wildcats ran another trick play which resulted in a touchdown run from junior punter Doug Lloyd. Lloyd was set to hold the ball and let Tuttle kick it but instead, the Wildcats caught SEMO off guard and had Lloyd pick it up and run it into the endzone. The Weber State lead was now 41-23.
With SEMO looking to score and try to gain their momentum back, Jordan Preator decided that one interception was not enough for him and picked off another pass, this one he took back to the house for a 52 yard pick six.
The Cats’ took a 48–23 lead that would hold up for the remainder of the game and groups fans wearing both purple and red began to head to the exits.
Not to be forgotten was senior Treshawn Garrett who rushed for 134 yards and helped set the tone for the Wildcats.
Jordan Preator spoke on the defense’s effort after the Wildcats secured four interceptions, saying “Coach Hill told us that they were primed for a big turnover game and they’d give us chances. We just had to capitalize on them and I think we went out and did exactly that.”
SEMO Head Coach Tom Matukewicz spoke highly of the Wildcats saying, “Give credit to Weber State. This is the type of program we want to be.”
All week, Jay Hill asked fans “Why wouldn’t you want to be here?”. Tonight he showed why you should be here.
Weber State will take on the Maine Black Bears Friday night at 6 p.m. at Stewart Stadium in the Quarterfinals of the FCS Playoffs.