The playing field held many challenges for the Wildcats during their opening football game on Sept. 2 when inclement weather caused a weather delay. Weber State pounced on an early lead, but they were cornered and defeated by the Utah Utes with a 40–17 blow-out.
“That’s a very tough, disciplined physical team, which we knew they’d be under Coach Whittingham,” Wildcats head coach Jay Hill said. “I do like the resilience and toughness of our football team, and I think we’ll only get better. This is a real team that we have.”
Despite the toughness of the Utes, 8:26 in the first quarter held magic for the Wildcats when senior wide receiver Rashid Shaheed caught the second kickoff of the game, cut left of the Utes’ defenders, found a hole in the defense and took the football straight to the end zone, giving Weber State the early 7–3 lead.
“It’s a blessing to be able to make plays for my team,” Shaheed said.
The return was Shaheed’s sixth career kickoff-return touchdown and is a Big Sky Conference record and tied the FCS record.
The early rhythm of the Wildcats was broken when a weather delay was called just after the 100-yard kickoff return, and the game in the sold-out stadium of 51,511 people had to come to a halt.
With the energy of the last play, the fans brought their own entertainment to the field, as some stripped their clothes off and ran as the rain poured. One fan had to be rescued from the Mighty Utah Student Section after he was pulled from the sideline.
After more than an hour of pouring rain and streakers running wild on the field, play resumed, and the No. 24-ranked Utes struck back with force to defend their home turf. 2020’s First Team All-Pac-12 linebacker Devin Lloyd led the Utes’ ferocious defense with 12 total, seven solo tackles and an interception. The defense paired with a scouring onslaught in the second half led by senior signal-caller and Utah newcomer Charlie Brewer stopped the Wildcats in their tracks.
“That team’s picked to win the Pac-12, and it’s the best team we’ll face all year,” Wildcat senior safety Preston Smith said.
Shaheed’s 100-yard touchdown was met with a five-play, 75-yard drive by the Utes, capped off by tight end Dalton Kincaid’s 17-yard touchdown, giving the Utes the lead heading into the second half of the first quarter.
“They have one of the best tight end groups in the country,” Smith said. “We won’t face tight ends like that again, especially at the FCS level.”
Brewer finished the game 19 of 27, throwing for a total of 233 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
After a Wildcat three-and-out, Weber State punter Mackenzie Morgan punts to Utes junior wide receiver Britain Covey who put the moves until he was knocked out of bounds at the Weber State 17-yard line, leading to a Jadon Redding 31-yard field goal, giving Utah a 13–7 lead with 2:53 to play in the first quarter.
Offensively, Wildcats quarterback Bronson Barron attempted to get rolling with a 4-yard scamper that he followed up with a 7-yard pass to junior wide receiver Ty MacPherson, who caught five passes for 48 yards in the Sept. 2 game.
Barron ended his night 21 of 33 with 213 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
“I think Bronson’s got an opportunity to be a really great player,” Hill said. “We didn’t help him out tonight.”
Utah went three-and-out, punting the ball back to Weber State’s 27-yard line, but on the 3rd-and-14, 23-yard line Barron was picked off by Ute Devin Lloyd.
The Utes kept up their hard push, ending the drive on a 12-yard Tavion Thomas touchdown run, putting the U of U up 19–7.
The Wildcats weren’t going down easy. They scratched and clawed to a 17-play drive that took 7:28 off the clock, but the team was called on a penalty for a delay of game.
“I was not really happy with the cleanliness on our side,” Hill said. “Eleven penalties is way too many. Going up against this team, you can’t afford to do that, and we did not handle the noise well.”
On second and third down, Barron found MacPherson for back-to-back catches for a 20-yard gain to their 48-yard line. Barron then found junior tight end Justin Malone on a first-and-10 play, picking up 14 yards, moving the ball to the Ute 36, and the freshman again found Malone for another 13 yards, taking the Wildcats to the Utah 13.
“I felt like we moved the ball really well,” Shaheed said. “There were times we had a lot of momentum on the offensive side.”
Junior running back Josh Davis picked up 13 yards to get Weber State within the Utes 1-yard line.
On third-and-goal, Barron looked to his right and passed to Clay Moss running wide open in the end zone, but the ball bounced in and out of the arms of the senior fullback, bringing the Wildcats to fourth down.
“We had three or four key drops and flipped field position,” Hill said. “We did not do a good enough job of getting yards on first down, which put us into too many third and longs.”
Fourth-and-goal resulted in a turnover when freshman quarterback Creyton Cooper was stopped short of the goal line.
Brewer led the Utes to the 47-yard line where he heaved a pass downfield that was picked off by Wildcat sophomore safety Ja’Kobe Harris ending the half with the Utes up 12 points over the Wildcats.
Utah took control in the second half building a 26–10 lead off a Brewer 8-yard touchdown pass to Ute wide receiver Solomon Enis.
“We’re a physical team,” Smith said. “We’re not going to back down; we’re not going to quit.”
With 1:23 left in the third quarter, Weber State punted to the Utes 28-yard line. A 9-play, 71-yard Ute drive ensued but ended with a Wildcat goal line stand when the defense swarmed Ute running back Chris Curry.
“In our situation, if we don’t get this we’re in a bad spot. The call was basically an all-out blitz, so we’re lucky they ran it, to be honest,” Smith said of the goal line stand. “But it felt really good to do that. To get the ball back to the offense after such a momentum change.”
Two possessions later, Thomas ran another touchdown from 14 yards out, taking Utah’s lead to 33–10.
“To start off the game, I felt like we were ready. We came out prepared and we did our assignments,” Shaheed said. “As the game went on, it kind of got away from us.”
Kincaid caught his second touchdown of the day with 7:49 to play in the fourth, taking the Utes to a 40–10 lead.
Weber State gave it their all, ending the game with a 75-yard touchdown.
“We’re never going to let our culture, toughness or work ethic slip,” Hill said.