It’s a highly anticipated matchup. On Sept. 28, the Weber State University Wildcats’ football team will take the field at 6 p.m. against the seventh ranked University of Northern Iowa Panthers at Stewart Stadium.
It’s the first top 10 showdown in Ogden this fall and sure to be a game of inches with weather calling for 56 degrees and 65 percent chance of thunderstorms.
“We’ve played good opponents already, we played tight with them. We beat a really good Cal Poly team on our own field,” head coach Jay Hill said. “We’ve had to play a great defense at times, and the offense has looked well.”
Over the course of 40 years, the two FCS teams have competed three times. The Wildcats are currently 1-2 against the Panthers. Their one and only win came in 1978 at the UNI Dome with a score of 35–9. Since then, the ’Cats have gone 0–2 in Cedar Falls, IA.
UNI will be facing their third-straight Big Sky opponent this season, previously playing Southern Utah and Idaho State.
WSU is coming in at an overall record of 1–2, beating the one FCS team they played, Cal Poly, and falling to two FBS programs San Diego State and Nevada.
The quarterback decision is still not set. Junior Jake Constantine is coming off an apparent knee injury sustained in the Cal Poly game. During the bye week, Constantine had doctors clean up the inside of his knee and it’s unclear who will be starting Saturday evening.
“Bottom line, whoever the quarterback is, is going to have to go in and win the game,” Hill said. “They don’t have to win it by themselves; they just have to do their job.”
The ’Cats’ offense has faced difficult opponents thus far, but sophomore running back Josh Davis and junior wide receiver Rashid Shaheed will look to lead the ’Cats on the offensive side
Davis has rushed for 183 yards, and Shaheed leads the receiving core with two touchdowns and 90 yards receiving.
“They have a veteran defense, very well disciplined,” Shaheed said. “They are a very physical defense, good at disguising their coverages, and they play very smart.”
On the defensive side, the Wildcats are led by junior linebacker Conner Mortensen, with 20 tackles, senior defensive end Adam Rodriguez with four tackles and 1.5 sacks, junior safety Preston Smith with seven tackles and one interception and senior linebacker Auston Tesch with 11 tackles.
UNI is currently 2–1 in their 2019 season, playing in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. The Panthers’ two wins came against Big Sky opponents, including last weeks 13–6 win over Idaho State.
Northern Iowa’s only loss came to a FBS school, losing 29–26 in triple overtime to the 23 ranked Iowa State Cyclones on Aug 31st.
“Their offensive line is big and tall,” senior defensive end Kawika Tupuola said. “We’ve been working on drills to face them. We are looking forward to try and contain Deion McShane; he’s fast and fluid.”
McShane leads the Panthers in receptions with 20 for 106 yards and one touchdown.
Like WSU, the Panthers have found a majority of their success from a strongly rooted defense.
Redshirt sophomore Spencer Cuvelier leads the team with 14 tackles, redshirt junior Elerson G. Smith leads with 5 sacks, freshman defensive back Omar Brown has two interceptions and Matthew Cook, freshman kicker, has gone 8 for 8 for his kicks, the longest being 50 yards.
Sept. 28 will be the first time UNI is making their way into Ogden to face WSU.
“We have a very successful record at home; we use home field to our advantage,” Shaheed said.
WSU’s physicality isn’t going to be the only thing UNI will face. The Panthers are located in Cedar Falls, IA, where the approximate elevation is 877 ft above sea level. Coming out west, they will have to adjust to WSU’s location at 4,298 ft above sea level.
“The home field advantage should help, but once the ball is kicked off, it doesn’t really matter where you’re at,” Hill said. “We are in front of our own crowd. I’m hoping that will be a big time crowd.”
Weber State encourages fans in attendance to wear purple in what they are calling a “Purple Out.” The ’Cats on the field will be in all purple for the first time in some time with the “Flying W” helmet decal.