No. 18 Weber State beats back rain, Montana State for road win

Saturday , September 30, 2017 - 6:46 PM

BRANDON GARSIDE, Standard-Examiner Staff

Facing a halftime deficit and increasingly bad weather, No. 18 Weber State fended off Montana State to claim a 25-17 road victory Saturday and stay on top of the Big Sky Conference standings.

Trailing 10-9, the Wildcats scored touchdowns on consecutive drives of 66 and 69 yards to open the second half and gain control, earning the program’s first win in Bozeman, Montana, since 2008.

“To play them up here and win is big deal,” WSU head coach Jay Hill said. “All of sudden we had a downpour (of rain) in the second half. I thought our offense handled that situation outstandingly. They battled and they executed very well. In the end, they found a way to get out of it.”

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The Wildcats (4-1, 2-0 Big Sky) led 22-10 to start the fourth quarter, but the Bobcats (1-3, 1-1) gathered momentum with a scoring drive that included three plays of 24 yards or more.

On the last play of the drive, MSU quarterback Chris Murray threw the ball to Kevin Kassis for what looked like a screen pass to the right side. Kassis then threw the ball back to Murray, who ran up the opposite sideline to score a 25-yard touchdown with less than nine minutes to play.

With the score 22-17, the Bobcats appeared to have held the Wildcats to a three-and-out on the next possession, but MSU hit Stefan Cantwell on a clear roughing-the-passer penalty to keep the drive alive.

WSU drove inside the MSU 10 thanks to an 18-yard pass to Tui Satuala and 16-yard pass to Brady May, but the Wildcats committed a false start on third-and-3 from the 5-yard line.

Unable to convert the third-and-long, kicker Trey Tuttle then punched through a 24-yard field goal with 2:29 left, forcing Montana State need a touchdown and two-point conversion to continue the game.

It didn’t come to that.

Murray, who ran for 123 yards in the game, appeared to convert a big third down play into Wildcat territory on a run, but the play was called back on a holding penalty that gave Montana State a third-and-23 on its own 35.

One incomplete pass later, MSU tried to make up the lost yardage with a short pass and a series of laterals, but the play fell short. Cantwell took a knee to complete the victory.

Cantwell threw 20 of 30 for 206 yards and ran for 59 yards and a touchdown. Junior running back Treshawn Garrett ran for 54 yards on 14 carries, and five players had 22 receiving yards or more.

Weber State possessed the ball for 40 of the game’s 60 minutes.

Montana State began the game with a 43-yard rush on the legs of Edward Vander and Weber State spent the first 15 minutes on its heels. But the Wildcat defense was up to the challenge, holding the Bobcats to three field-goal attempts in the first half with only one splitting the uprights for a score.

Weber State took the ball into the red zone three times in the first half but also couldn’t find the end zone.

The Wildcats also had a hard time scoring a touchdown after getting inside the red zone three times, but Tuttle continued his perfect field-goal record with three in the first half, the longest from 31 yards out. Tuttle is now 10 for 10 on field goals — though he rattled the left upright with a PAT in the second half, his first miss of the season.

“They had us on our heels early in the game,” Hill said. “You’ve got to give them a ton of credit. They made a ton of plays.That quarterback is special. He can make you miss. He can make the whole team miss and do it two or three times in the same play.”

WSU appeared set to take a 9-3 lead into the locker room, but Murray found Lance McCutcheon behind the Wildcat secondary for a 64-yard touchdown in the final seconds to give the Bobcats a 10-9 lead at the break.

After struggling to establish a run game, the Wildcats put a balanced effort together in the opening drive of the second half. Kevin Smith capped the six-minute drive with a 6-yard touchdown run to give WSU a 15-10 lead.

A Cantwell run of 25 yards took Weber State into MSU territory on the next drive. Later, on third-and-2 from the 11, Smith stepped up again with a 10-yard run to get the first down. Cantwell punched in a 1-yard touchdown to put the Wildcats up 22-10.

Weber State now enters a bye week and will prepare for Southern Utah. The Thunderbirds make the trip to Ogden for a game at 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14.

Contact sports reporter Brandon Garside at bgarside@standard.net, on Twitter @BrandonGarside and on Facebook.com/BrandonGarsideSE.

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