It’s exciting for us, for the fans and for the program. The games just keep getting bigger and bigger. —Weber State coach Jay Hill
OGDEN — Less the 24 hours after earning a share of the Big Sky championship, the Weber State Wildcats were back at Stewart Stadium early Sunday morning for the FCS Playoff Selection show.
After taking into consideration Weber State’s 9-2 regular season record, including their 7-1 mark in the Big Sky, the 10-person selection committee, which comprises one representative from each of the FCS conferences with automatic bids, decided that the Wildcats were deserving of an at-large bid (in the 24-team tournament) and a first-round matchup against the Western Illinois Leathernecks (8-3, 5-3 Missouri Valley Conference).
Weber State will host the contest, which is set to be played Saturday, Nov. 25 at 2 p.m.
“It’s exciting for us, for the fans and for the program,” Weber State head coach Jay Hill said. “The games just keep getting bigger and bigger.”
“It is exciting to have a home playoff game,” added quarterback Stefan Cantwell. “It’s what you work for all season. It’s what you want.”
The Wildcats enter the contest with their heads held high, riding a five-game winning streak that included wins over ranked foes such as Montana and Eastern Washington.
“I think we are playing as good as we have all year,” defensive lineman McKay Murphy said. “Our confidence level is high. We’ve played some good teams this year and have come out on top. I think week by week our confidence has grown. We aren’t content to just make the playoffs; we are hungry for more.”
Adding to the intrigue of the playoffs is that the Wildcats are on the same side of the bracket as rival Southern Utah. In fact, a Weber State victory over Western Illinois would set up a rematch between the Big Sky co-champions (SUU earned a first-round bye due to their earlier victory over Weber State).
“I think that is probably in the back of everyone’s minds, but we just have to stay focused on Western Illinois,” Murphy said. “We have to take it one game at a time.”
The Leathernecks, who finished fourth in the Missouri Valley Conference, are the real deal, according to Hill.
“They are a really good team,” Hill said. “They beat some really good teams this year and their only losses are to some of the elite (FCS) teams in the country. This is a great team coming in here, and it’ll be a heck of a matchup.”
“I think it is great for us,” Hill added. “If you are going to make a run through the playoffs you are going to have to play really really hard teams. I think (Western Illinois) is a great first-round opponent because they are just that. They are a really good, tough team, and they should prepare us for future success down the road.”