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Weber State’s reign as the king of the Big Sky continues

When the clock finally struck midnight, the Wildcats rushed onto the field, gave Head Coach Jay Hill a Gatorade bath and relished the moment as Queen’s “We Are the Champions” blared on the speakers. The Weber State Wildcats were Big Sky Champions for the third season in a row.

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Haze Hadley breaking through the offensive line. (Nikki Dorber / The Signpost)

For the third year in a row, Weber State kicked off with Idaho State as a top 10 team to end the regular season with a Big Sky Championship on the line. Just like the two previous years, the Wildcats handled business and celebrated another Big Sky title after pounding the Bengals 38–10.

Weber State came into the Nov. 23 matchup ranked 6th in the STATS FCS Poll after last week’s slip up against Montana. They survived running into the claws of the Grizzlies and learned from it as they set their sights on the Bengals.

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Weber State Wildcats avoid the tackle from Idaho State. (Nikki Dorber / The Signpost)

Due to last week’s win by Montana, the Big Sky Championship was up for grabs and the Weber State Wildcats, Montana Grizzlies and the Sacramento State Hornets all held a claim to the throne after a wild year in Big Sky play.

The trio of conference leaders each played each other but left no certainty on who was the conference’s best.

#6 Weber State – Won @ Sacramento State 36–17. Lost @ Montana 35–16.

#3 Montana – Won vs Weber State 35–16. Lost @ Sacramento State 49–22.

#4 Sacramento State – Won vs Montana 49–22. Lost vs Weber State 36–17.

Each team needed a win on Nov. 23 to hold a share of the title and make their case for being the conference’s highest-seeded team in the FCS playoffs.

Before the kickoff, WSU honored their seniors because it was their last regular-season home game; the seniors are the winningest senior class in school history.

“They’ve been great, they turned around a program where it was not where it could have been and now we’re getting closer to where it should be,” head coach Jay Hill said about the seniors. “I owe everything to these guys.”

It didn’t take long for the Wildcats to strike against Idaho State. The game kicked off at 2:06 p.m. and by 2:08 p.m. WSU held a 7–0 lead. Junior quarterback Jake Constantine threw a dart across the field to junior wide receiver David Ames, who snagged it and went untouched into the end zone for the first score of the night.

A statement was made in the first half by the ‘Cats, filled with big plays and hard hits, ultimately finishing with a 31–0 lead at halftime.

The first half scoring barrage featured a 37-yard field goal from junior all-American kicker Trey Tuttle to bring the score to 10–0. Then, WSU opened their bag of tricks and pulled out a flea-flicker that went 38 yards from Constantine to sophomore wide receiver Devon Cooley to give the Wildcats a 17–0 advantage.

A stingy WSU defense gave the offense more chances to score, and they did just that with a 24-yard touchdown from sophomore all-American running back Josh Davis. The lead was then 24–0. Around 40 seconds later, Constantine and Cooley linked up a second time to bring the score to 31–0 right before the half and the rout was on.

Constantine was boiling in the first half as he completed 12-16 passes for 245 yards and three touchdowns. His leading pass catcher was Ames, who had 4 catches for 140 yards and a touchdown. Constantine finished with 289 yards as the Wildcats kept the ball on the ground to keep the clock moving.

“I feel like after we scored that touchdown on our first drive, the confidence went through the roof, and you could tell everyone was playing with confidence, and that was the biggest thing in today’s win,” Constantine said.

Early in the second half, Idaho State broke the shutout by knocking down a field goal to put a small dent in the Wildcats’ 31–3 lead.

The Wildcats responded to the Bengals score with a grueling 13 play, 75-yard drive that lasted nearly seven minutes and ended with Constantine throwing a laser to sophomore wide receiver Ty MacPherson from six yards out to push the lead to 38–3.

While the Wildcat offense put on a clinic, the defense left bruises and headaches. The defense had only given up 113 yards and 46 yards while the starters were in the game. Junior linebacker Conner Mortensen finished the game with eight tackles while senior linebacker Auston Tesch had five tackles of his own.

In the final quarter of play, both teams exchanged possessions for most of the quarter before the Bengals found the end zone with 2:06 left in the game to trim the lead to 38-10. The Wildcats got the ball back, running out the clock as the video boards showed 2019 Big Sky Champions.

The Wildcats finished the regular season with a 9-3 overall record and 7-1 in conference play with two of those loses coming to FBS programs.

The Montana Grizzlies lost to rival Montana State in lopsided fashion, but Sacramento State held on to beat UC Davis. With the Wildcats and Hornets wins, both teams share the Big Sky Title, but WSU’s victory over Sac State earned them the automatic bid into the 2019/2020 FCS Playoffs.

“Win and advance,” Hill said. “That’s the best part about college football at this level.”

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