OGDEN — The Weber State Wildcats and the Idaho State Bengals met on the field at Stewart Stadium Saturday afternoon in the regular season finale. The Wildcats came into the contest looking to close out the year with nine wins (seven in conference play) and, more importantly, secure a share of the Big Sky championship. As for the Bengals, they were hoping to end their season on a high note against one of their traditional rivals.
It wasn’t always pretty, especially for the Wildcats as they had their share of blemishes, headlined by quarterback Stefan Cantwell’s three interceptions (he also fumbled), but Weber State did more than enough to come away with a 35-7 victory.
More importantly and for the first time since 2008, the Weber State Wildcats are the champions (co-champions) of the Big Sky Conference.
“This is what we came here to do,” said Weber State head coach Jay Hill. “I’m proud of these guys. It has been a fun journey, to watch them get better and better each year.”
“It’s great,” Wildcat cornerback Taron Johnson said. “It’s a blessing to get (the title). It’s been awhile.”
Early on, it wasn’t clear whether the Wildcats would come away with any hardware. On their first offensive possession of the game, Cantwell, who finished with 262 yards passing and three touchdowns, not to mention 75 rushing yards and a score, gifted the Bengals the ball with the first of his interceptions.
It was a strange play, in truth, as the senior looked to complete a screen pass to running back Treshawn Garrett only to have his pass bounce off the back of his own lineman and into the awaiting arms of Bengal defensive back Adkin Aguirre.
Idaho State made excellent use of the present, marching 72 yards down the field for a touchdown.
“There are no excuses,” said Cantwell. “I was forcing things and then you had the ball bounce off a guy’s back. It’s just how life goes.”
The Wildcats responded to the miscue, however, as Cantwell drove his team 48 yards on the next possession (fullback Brady May returned the Bengals kickoff 33 yards to kick off the possession), capping off the drive with a 16-yard touchdown scamper.
Weber State would go on to score 28 additional unanswered points, as Cantwell connected with running back Kevin Smith, receiver Ty MacPherson and kicker — yes, kicker — Trey Tuttle for touchdown receptions.
May added an additional score for the home team, when he ran in from 3 yards out.
And yet, as has often been the case this season for the Wildcats, it was the defense that carried the team to victory.
Led by Johnson, who intercepted Idaho State quarterback Tanner Gueller twice and is a player Hill called “the best cornerback in the country,” the Wildcat defense completely shut down the Bengals.
Weber State allowed a measly 204 yards of total offense, 109 passing and 95 rushing, not to mention just 10 first downs. Linebacker LeGrand Toia (10 tackles and a sack) was part of a front seven that held the Bengals to an average of just 4 yards per carry, while Johnson and the Wildcat secondary forced Gueller into a 14-for-29 contest.
“They played outstanding.” said Hill. “(Idaho State’s) touchdown was an eye-opener for our players, and they buckled right down and the rest of the game we gave them nothing.”Comment on this story
“I’m excited about this team and so proud of our senior class,” added Hill. “They are the guys that came in and had trust and faith in a coaching staff that had done nothing to that point. They’ve helped this team finish five spots higher than their preseason projection every year.”
One of those seniors, Cantwell, noted that winning the Big Sky title “is what you want. It’s what you plan for. All season, we knew we had a special team, and we are super excited to continue playing in the playoffs. I think they'll turn out a lot different this year.”
“(This win) is a great way to end (the season)," added Hill, "but we’re not done yet."