Wildcat football touches down for seventh win

Braxton Hill #35 of the Montana Grizzlies sacks Bronson Barron #10 of the Weber State Wildcats on Oct. 22.

Weber State University’s football team bounced back to their winning ways after defeating the University of Montana 24–21 at Stewart Stadium on Oct. 29.

The last time the Grizzlies and Wildcats faced each other was in 2019 during the FCS Quarterfinals, where Weber State handed Montana a 17–10 loss.

In front of more than 11,000 fans, this was the first midday game that the Wildcats hosted, with players and fans decked in all black for the theme of the game. Headed into this game, spectators expected a slug-fest of two powerful defensive teams and got just that.

The No. 5 ‘Cats were looking to break their losing streak after falling to Montana State on Oct. 29. The No. 11 Grizzlies were even more desperate, as they were heading into Ogden on a two-game losing streak.

“Montana plays with extreme effort,” head coach Jay Hill said. “They fly to football and they’re very physical.”

Weber State won the coin toss and deferred to the second half; however, both teams weren’t successful on their first drives of the game.

The Grizzlies were the first team to put points on the board after Nico Ramos had a successful 41-yard field goal with just over four minutes left in the first quarter. On the Wildcats’ next drive, Damon Bankston completed a 47-yard run for a touchdown and with Kyle Thompson’s extra point, the ‘Cats got their first lead of the game, 7–3.

Like the first quarter, both teams were slow to score, and the Grizzlies came up first. On third & 9 and at the 14-yard line, Montana quarterback Kris Brown was looking for an open receiver in the endzone. On a poor pass to Mitch Roberts, Eddie Heckard was called for pass interference, and the Grizzlies were moved up to the 2-yard line, resulting in Brown keeping the ball and rushing for Montana’s first touchdown at the seven minute mark of the second quarter.

With the Grizzlies leading 10–7, the Wildcats were able to hold them off on their following drive and get the ball back. Montana’s Justin Ford helped the Wildcats by getting called for pass interference and moving them up 15 yards. The Wildcats got as close as within 5 yards, but due to two separate 5-yard penalties, Weber State got pushed back to the 14-yard line.

Thompson was brought out and successfully made a 28-yard field goal, tying the game with less than a minute left in the half. This was the first time for both teams to be tied headed into the half during their season.

Like the previous two quarters, the Grizzlies were the first to score in the third quarter. Ramos was brought out to attempt a 32-yard field goal and successfully pushed Montana to 13–10.

The Wildcats were quick to respond, and on their next drive, Bronson Barron connected with Ty MacPherson for a 69-yard touchdown with just under six minutes remaining in the quarter, giving the ‘Cats a 17–13 lead.

Both teams wouldn’t allow any points for the remainder of the third quarter and the first ten minutes of the fourth quarter. That was until Barron connected with Hayden Meacham for a 12-yard touchdown, pushing the Wildcats’ lead to 24–13.

Less than 30 seconds later, Malik Flowers returned a 100-yard kickoff for a touchdown and the Grizzlies looked to close on the Wildcats’ lead with a 2-point conversion. Brown pitched the ball to Junior Bergen, who passed the ball to Roberts to close in on the Wildcats’ lead, 24–21 with just over five minutes remaining in the game.

The Wildcats looked to drain the clock and did just that with Dontae McMillan and Kris Jackson. Jackson sealed the deal for the ‘Cats by capping off a nine-play drive and converting a fourth & 1 with a 3-yard gain.

“The way Dontae McMillan and Kris Jackson ran the ball down the stretch and to end that was huge,” Hill said. “That group is critical to our success.”

Winston Reid led the squad with a career-high of 14 tackles, Steven Bryant collected two sacks and as a team the Wildcats had 11 total tackles for loss.

“Steven Bryant is going to be a great player in this program,” Hill said. “We know it. Our plan with him is bring him along as far as we can, technique, let him continue to gain weight and strength and size.”

McMillan led the offense with 100 yards and 23 carries, Bankston was close behind 79 yards off of nine carries and one touchdown. Barron completed 14 of their 23 attempts for 153 yards.

Josh Davis, Jacob Sharp and Abraham Williams missed the game due to injury, but Hill expects Davis and Sharp to be ready for Sacramento State.

The Wildcats now stand at 7–1 and look to take on the Sacramento State Hornets at Stewart Stadium on Nov. 5.