For the first time since 1993, the Weber State University football team traveled west on I-80 to take on former Big Sky rival the University of Nevada Wolfpack at MacKay Stadium in Reno, Nevada falling 19–13.
“We got to get better,” head coach Jay Hill. “We weren’t good enough defensively, we weren’t good enough offensively. We had a bunch of short fields we didn’t take advantage of.”
Coming into Saturday evening’s matchup, the Wolfpack held a 9-6 series lead over the Wildcats with two of those loses coming in 1992 and 1993 when the Wolfpack were in their first years as an FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) program.
WSU’s last victories over an FBS program was against Nevada, but they would look for their third consecutive win without junior quarterback Jake Constantine, who remained in Ogden with an apparent knee injury suffered against Cal Poly.
Nevada got the scoring started, driving the ball 56 yards on 10 plays, ending with a 36 yard field goal.
The ’Cats first drive came to a quick end, and when it looked like the Wolfpack were ready to score again, defensive end Adam Rodriquez came off the corner forcing Nevada’s quarterback to throw the ball right into the hands of WSU’s safety Preston Smith.
The Wildcats looked to have something going after a 21 yard rush from running back Josh Davis, but the drive stalled on the next set of downs.
WSU’s defense forced its first three-and-out, and the ’Cats got the ball back with great field position. Back-up running back Kevin Smith got his first two touches of the game, and kicker Trey Tuttle capped off the drive with a 43 yard field goal, notching the score at three a piece.
On the following possession, the defense again came up big, forcing its second consecutive three and out. Defensive end Raoul Johnson blocked the Wolfpack’s punt, and the Wildcats got the ball inside the red zone.
Two plays later, quarterback Kaden Jenks found wide-receiver Rashid Shaheed in the back corner of the end zone, and the Wildcats had a 10–3 lead after Tuttle’s extra point attempt was successful.
Nevada was able to add two more field goals in the first half, and both teams went into the locker rooms with a 10–9 score in favor of the Wildcats.
For the Wildcats, it was the second time this season they held an FBS program out of the end zone for the first half of play.
“We should have had more than just a one point lead going into half,” Hill said. “We got to take advantage of those opportunities.”
Before Nevada’s band could even get into the stands for the second half, the Wolfpack defense forced another three-and-out and was set up for a drive that ended with a 33 yard rushing touchdown and a Nevada 16–10 lead.
WSU’s ensuing possession saw punter Doug Lloyd rush for 15 yards on 4th and 15 that later stalled.
The defensive struggle continued when the ’Cats forced a three-and-out and got the ball in great field possession but couldn’t move the ball against the Wolfpack defense.
Tuttle added another field goal from 47 yards, and the game entered the final quarter with a 16–13 Nevada lead.
On the fourth play of the fourth quarter, Nevada’s quarterback dropped the snap, and WSU’s defensive linemen Jared Schiess dove on the ball with another Wildcat turnover.
The Wildcats continued to struggle on the offensive side of the ball and were unable to get anything going throughout the game. However, the defense continued to play tough with their backs against the goal line, keeping the Wolfpack out of the end zone and forcing another field goal 19–13 as the game entered the last few minutes.
With just under five minutes remaining, the ’Cats were in a situation they had seen before: down six against an FBS Mountain West Conference school and the ball in their offenses hands.
WSU’s offense failed to move the ball again and were forced to punt the ball back to the Wolfpack, who ran out the clock and escaped with a 19–13 victory over the Wildcats.
The Wildcats finished the night with just 137 yards of total offense compared to the Wolfpack’s 453 yards.
WSU’s defense forced three turnovers and held another FBS team to under 20 points and to just one touchdown.
“You win the turnover margin like we did and block a punt like we did, and that should have been in our favor,” Hill said on winning the turnover battle.
The Wildcats enter their bye week before the 100 years of football at WSU celebration against the University of Northern Iowa Panthers on September 28 at Stewart Stadium.