No. 14 Weber State claims 28-20 road win over No. 11 Eastern Washington

Saturday , November 04, 2017 - 7:07 PM2 comments

BRANDON GARSIDE, Standard-Examiner Staff

A Big Sky championship is still in the cards for Weber State and an appearance in the FCS Playoffs seems all but certain.

The No. 14 Wildcats (5-1 Big Sky, 7-2) made plays on both sides of the ball Saturday despite snow and a hostile crowd to claim a pivotal 28-20 win over No. 11 Eastern Washington at Roos Field in Cheney.

Weber State (7-2, 5-1 Big Sky) led 21-14 in the fourth quarter when the Eagles (5-4, 4-2) drove inside the 10-yard line twice — one drive reaching the 1 — only for the Wildcat defense to stand on its head. EWU settled for field goals on both occasions and WSU led 21-20 with 7:01 left.

Freshman running back David Jones, who finished with a team-high 70 rushing yards, capped a 65-yard drive by dashing in 24 yards for a score, giving the Wildcats a 28-20 lead with 2:33 left.

“That last drive was huge,” WSU head coach Jay Hill said. “To end it with a touchdown was big. We gave up some plays in the first half that maybe we shouldn’t have, but you’ve got to give Eastern credit. They’ve got a quarterback who’s phenomenal. To hold them under 400 yards and 20 points is a big deal.”

Weber State forced a turnover on downs after sacking EWU quarterback Gage Gubrud on second down (by Keilan Benjamin) and on fourth down (by LeGrand Toia).

Trey Tuttle couldn’t convert a 24-yard field goal four plays later, which gave Eastern the ball at its own 20 with 40 second left.

Gubrud only took the Eagles 8 yards before freshman safety Preston Smith iced the game with an interception, the only turnover of the game.

Elsewhere Saturday, Montana upset No. 16 Northern Arizona to hand the Lumberjacks their first conference loss, meaning Weber State pulled into a tie for first place.

Weber State’s secondary was without NFL prospect and senior corner back Taron Johnson, who was out with an injured hamstring. Sophomore safety Trey Hoskins suffered what appeared to be a injured ankle and exited the game late in the third quarter.

Several players like Smith, Benjamin and Jeremy Maxwell filled the void, holding the prolific EWU passing offense to 239 yards — 100 less than its average.

“I’m proud of those backups. It’s hard when you lose one of your best players, if not your best player, on defense,” Hill said of Johnson. “He’s a guy that normally shuts down half the field. I’m very proud of those secondary guys that stepped up and played well.”

Stefan Cantwell was 21-of-31 passing for 230 yards and three touchdowns for Weber State, adding 12 carries and 66 yards on the ground.

Junior running back Treshawn Garrett led the receiving effort with 93 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

Senior tight end Andrew Vollert came up big for the Wildcats, totaling five catches for 87 yards with several hauls coming on third down. Drew Batchelor chipped in 48 receiving yards and a touchdown.

Eastern Washington wasted no time putting Weber State on its heels to start the game. The Eagles drove 78 yards in 2:28, taking chunks through the air to set up a 7-yard touchdown run from Antione Custer to draw first blood.

The Wildcat defense responded and kept the Eagles off the scoreboard while the offense found its rhythm.

On the second play of the second quarter, Cantwell tossed a bubble screen to Garrett, which he took 14 yards to tie the game 7-7. Vollert had three catches for 43 yards during the 84-yard scoring drive, including a 34-yard catch.

Eastern regained the lead on the next possession after a third-down pass interference call against the Wildcats kept the drive alive. Gubrud found Nsimba Webster for a 23-yard touchdown pass to go ahead 14-7.

Weber State equalized on the next drive thanks to a 22-yard pass to Vollert on third-and-14, and a 35-yard pass to Garrett on fourth-and-7, the latter of which took the Wildcats to the EWU 1. Cantwell hit Batchelor for and easy 1-yard touchdown and the game was tied 14-14 at the half.

Late in the third, Cantwell found Garrett for a 26-yard touchdown pass to give the Wildcats their first lead of the game at 21-14 and set up the fourth quarter battle.

Weber State next faces Portland State, which was winless entering Saturday play, at 3 p.m. MST Saturday, Nov. 11, in Portland. The Wildcats finish the regular season Nov. 18 by hosting Idaho State (4-6, 2-5).

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

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