OGDEN, UT. – On a wet, snowy evening at Stewart Stadium, Weber State’s defense and special teams were the main reason the Wildcats defeated their bitter rivals Montana 17-10 and advanced to the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs for the first time in school history.
It was a game where the weather and two stellar defensive performances grounded the offenses. Weber State only managed 8 first downs and 122 yards of offense, but won thanks to their opportunistic defense and a huge special teams play that resulting in a critical touchdown.
In the Wildcats’ last three trips to the FCS playoffs, they were denied a chance to be one of the final four teams in the subdivision, the latest a heartbreaking 23-18 loss to Maine here at home last season.
But the Wildcats would not be denied, even after entering the locker room trailing the Grizzlies 7-3.
After QB Jake Constantine found RB Josh Davis for an 11-yard touchdown early in the third quarter, the wet condition and the ferocity of the Weber State defense and special teams took over Ja’Kobe Harris blocked a Montana punt and picked it up in the end zone for a touchdown to make it 17-7, while a fired-up Weber State defense shut , with an amazing six sacks and five interceptions of Montana QB Dalton Sneed, shut down the Montana attack.
Senior DE Adam Rodriguez had an incredible game, notching four of those sacks, tying a school record.
A huge motivating factor for Adam, he revealed, was Weber State’s loss to Montana a few weeks ago, the only conference loss the Wildcats had.
“I was angry,” Rodriguez said. “Last game we went in there and they kind of smacked us around. This game we just showed them what Weber State football is like, and that’s hard-nosed football and great defense.”
Both teams stuffed each others’ running game, Weber State gaining a net of 43 rushing yards and Montana only 17. But it was the Wildcat defense who ended up delivering the final blow with DE George Tarlas’ second interception of the game with 2:01 to play.
“My players and myself we’re not content yet. We still have bigger goals ahead of this,” Wildcats coach Jay Hill said. “There’s still a lot going on, but we have a lot more to accomplish.”
Weber State’s reward for finally breaking through to the semifinals is a trip to Harrisonburg, Virginia, where they’ll face James Madison. This game will be a rematch of the quarterfinals in 2017 when the Wildcats nearly knocked off the Dukes, but this meeting seems like it will be defined by defense, which should suit Weber State just fine. Last week, James Madison blanked Northern Iowa 17-0 to make it to the semifinals.
Chuck has been writing about Lehigh football since the dawn of the internet, or perhaps it only seems like it. He’s executive editor of the College Sports Journal and has also written a book, The Rivalry: How Two Schools Started the Most Played College Football Series.
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