After months of anticipation and excitement building around the 2019-20 season, The Weber State Wildcats kicked off their season in sunny San Diego in front of 40,222 fans packed into SDCCU Stadium against the San Diego State Aztecs. The Aztecs were able to come away with a 6–0 win but not without a valiant effort from the Wildcats.
Head Coach Jay Hill reflected on the game saying, “They are good, they are physical and that defense flies around.. If we’re going to pull these games off we gotta make a couple of more plays.”
This season marks the sixth for Hill as he continues to change the culture at Weber State as he’s created a national championship-contending program. He will get another chance at an FBS win in two weeks against the Nevada Wolfpack.
The Cats’ took the field in the humid California climate as they were looking for an upset win over an FBS division team. The Big Sky champion Wildcats came into the game boasting a 10-3 record from last season and find themselves ranked eighth in the STATS FCS preseason poll. The Aztecs hail from the Mountain West Conference and last season posted a record of 7-6, losing their last four games.
Weber State’s season kicked off with a touchback from junior all-American kicker Trey Tuttle and the clash between WSU and SDSU began.
From the first couple of drives, it was clear that defense would play a big part in the game as neither team could keep their offense on the field. It seemed that the Wildcats were poised to go on a drive after junior quarterback Jake Constantine and sophomore receiver Devon Cooley found each other, both players were born and raised in Southern California and the SoCal kids hooked up for 31 yards that later stalled for a punt.
In the second quarter, the Wildcats defense showed the definition of bend don’t break after San Diego ripped off runs for 11, 13 and 15 yards and a fourth-down conversion that landed them in scoring position.
As momentum began to tilt towards the team in black and red, sophomore defensive end McKade Mitton applied pressure and came up with a sack to stop the bleeding. The sack eventually forced San Diego State to attempt a field goal which they nailed, making the score 3–0.
The player who everyone was looking at heading into this game was junior WR Rashid Shaheed, not only was it his 21 birthday but it was his homecoming game and Wildcat fans were itching for him to get chances in the open field.
On Shaheed’s first opportunity at a kick return, he caught if off the bounce and returned it over 90 yards for what looked like a touchdown, but there was a questionable holding penalty that brought it back and took the points off the board.
After the flag wiped out the WSU touchdown, The Aztecs forced the Wildcats to punt and went right back to pounding the ball and they once again had momentum-shifting their way before the Cats’ made them pump their brakes. The drive ended with a fumble on a field goal attempt deep into Weber territory to give WSU their first takeaway of the season and keep the score 3–0 going into halftime.
The first half was a defensive battle and the second half continued that trend as WSU was forced to punt on their opening drive and SDSU drove down the field and once again came away with no points.
During the third quarter when the sun began to set, The Cats’ offense found a light. Constantine connected with sophomore tight end Justin Malone and junior wide receiver David Ames which helped move the ball downfield but SDSU forced a fourth down.
On fourth down, WSU decided to dial up a trick play and they flipped the ball to Ames who then cocked his arm back and launched the ball downfield which fooled the Aztecs but the pass was just out of reach for Shaheed. The Wildcats turned the ball over on downs and the war between defenses continued and the third quarter came to a close with a score of 3–0.
The fourth quarter opened with the Aztecs once again finding momentum and this time they were able to convert, the score was now 6-0 after a 29-yard field goal from San Diego State.
San Diego State’s offensive struggles were coming from them not being able to pass the ball on the Wildcat secondary which led to the Wildcats expecting the run and shutting it down after SDSU found success with it.
Coach Hill spoke on the play of the secondary, saying, “We had a bunch of true freshmen out there tonight. That whole second half was basically played by true freshmen. They made a lot of plays, they were tested… It was great to get that kind of war and battle against a team like that”.
After the SDSU field goal, sophomore running back Josh Davis tried to spark WSU with a 39-yard kick-off return but the Wildcats drive was short and ended in a punt.
Throughout the fourth quarter, the defenses were smothering their oppositions as both teams exchanged punts and time began to tick on WSU’s upset hopes.
The final two drives for the Wildcats were an interception and turnover on downs as they were never able to overcome the SDSU defense. The clash between the Wildcats and Aztecs ended in a 6–0 defeat for WSU.
“We got a really good opponent next week,” Hill said. “We’re here to win, we’re here to play good and we expected to play good tonight. There’s no moral victory.”
The Wildcats fall to 0-1 on the season but will have a chance to get their first win next Saturday against Cal Poly at 6 p.m. inside the revamped Stewart Stadium.