Wildcats’ winter win

Devin Ford (83), Alema Tupuola (36) and Spencer Niutupuivaha (33) running after a punt took place.

Weber State University’s football team hosted the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks at a snowy Stewart Stadium on Nov. 26. The Wildcats’ 38–31 victory sent UND home in the first round of the FCS Playoffs.

“They’re always tough, they’re always disciplined, they don’t make a lot of mistakes. We knew we were going to have to earn it,” head coach Jay Hill said about UND.

Headed into the match unranked, the Wildcats had a chip on their shoulder and looked to make a statement. If the Wildcats had been ranked in the playoff selection, they would have received a bye week, giving the ‘Cats an extra week to heal from the regular season.

The first quarter had a slow start to it, and neither team was able to find a scoring opportunity until Weber States’ Dontae McMillan was able to cap a 9-play, 94-yard run with a 2-yard rushing touchdown. Alongside Kyle Thompson’s extra point, the Wildcats had a 7–0 lead with just over four minutes remaining in the quarter.

Between the two teams, there would be six different scores in the second quarter. Thompson started the quarter for the ‘Cats with a 40-yard field goal, extending the Wildcats’ lead to 10–0.

Looking to share the wealth, the Wildcats’ next two touchdowns came from two different running backs. Josh Davis capped off a 10-play run with a 30-yard run for a touchdown. Damon Bankston followed Davis less than three minutes later with a 39-yard run, pushing the Wildcats’ lead to 24–0.

The Fighting Hawks were desperate to get themselves on the board and found an interesting way to do so. On second and 10, what looked to be an incomplete pass from UND quarterback Tommy Schuster resulted in a 63-yard scoop and score for Isaiah Smith.

The call on the field was ruled a fumble recovered by UND and, when reviewed, there wasn’t indisputable evidence to reverse the call to an incomplete pass. Stewart Stadium erupted into booing fans as the call on the field would stand.

The Wildcats were looking to silence the Hawks following the potential momentum change and did so by scoring their first touchdown in the air. Bronson Barron connected with Hayden Meacham on a 25-yard pass with less than a minute remaining in the half.

With the clock winding down, Schuster found Jaden Norby for a 5-yard pass with ten seconds remaining, cutting the Wildcats’ lead to 31–14.

Abraham Williams looked to extend their historic season with their fifth kickoff return for a touchdown in the remaining second of the half. Williams found themselves in the end zone, but the touchdown was taken back because of an illegal below-the-waist block from Alema Tupuola.

Stewart Stadium was filled with upset fans one again and the booing filled the air through a UND 23-yard field goal. Cheers erupted through the crowd as Davis found his second touchdown of the evening, the Wildcats led 38–17 with just over six minutes remaining in the third quarter.

Davis’ touchdown would be the final touchdown for the Wildcats, while UND would have two scores come in in the fourth quarter. Despite the Hawks’ efforts, their comeback would come up short by one touchdown, 38–31.

The running back core of the Wildcats led the offense with a total of 330 yards. Davis led with 129 yards and McMillan was close behind with 122 yards.

“Overall, a lot of positives,” Hill said. “The way we ran the ball today was huge. I have said all along we have a good O-line, good tight ends, we got good backs and to lean that crew was huge.”

On defense, Eddie Heckard led the squad with nine tackles, and Winston Reid was close behind with seven tackles.

Weber State will hit the road to Bozeman, Montana, for a Big Sky Conference rematch and take on the No. 4 Montana State Bobcats on Dec. 3.

The Wildcats previously fell to MSU and took their first loss of the season, 43–38 after giving up four safeties.