Weber State football dumps Southern Utah 62-0 in T-Birds’ final Big Sky game
By the time the contest reached the final minutes, nobody seemed to notice the clock operator ran 16 seconds off the clock on a kickoff that was fair caught. Nobody would have argued, either.
Three plays later, Weber State freshman defensive end Zeke Birch sacked former Roy High and current SUU quarterback Tyler Skidmore for a loss of 9 yards and the game clock expired on the largest margin of victory in the rivalry series Saturday in Cedar City.
Weber State 62, Southern Utah 0.
The Thunderbirds finished with 76 yards of total offense despite Weber State not traveling four of its top five cornerbacks.
“Offense played great, defense played great, special teams great. I can’t say enough about all the backups who went in there and played outstanding. This is one of the weirdest weeks I’ve had,” Hill said. “I’m so proud of what the defense overcame and to hold that offense to 76 yards was absolutely huge. And the offense took advantage of so many of the opportunities the defense gave us early.
“I can’t say enough about this team and the effort. And the coaches did a phenomenal job this week of trying to rally the troops in a hard situation, and get them to come out and play great today like they did.”
Weber State (5-5, 4-3 Big Sky) hassled SUU starting quarterback Justin Miller into three interceptions in the game’s first 22 minutes, got Rashid Shaheed running free twice for huge plays, and scored 31 points in the second quarter to take a 45-0 lead into halftime.
“I challenged the defensive line this game to really step up and it didn’t really matter if we could rush three guys and get a pass rush, and do some things that confused the quarterback, then we’d have a chance. And the D-line played absolutely outstanding,” Hill said.
The only drama after that was if Southern Utah (1-10, 0-8), playing its final game of the season, could break the 100-yard mark on offense and what kind of WSU records might be in play.
For one series, it appeared Weber State might struggle offensively after a wide throw, a rush that lost 6 yards, and a third-down sack. But that was where the struggles ended.
On WSU’s second possession, Bronson Barron hit Rashid Shaheed in stride up the right sideline and he raced for 70 yards, caught at the SUU 2. Creyton Cooper lofted an easy 3-yard touchdown pass to Hayden Meacham a few players later and Weber led 7-0 early.
On a fourth down from the Weber 40, Miller threw a pass to WSU safety Desmond Williams in coverage with 2:59 left in the first quarter.
Five plays later, Barron hit Shaheed again behind the defense. Shaheed shed a tackler at the SUU 8 and walked into the end zone for a 47-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
On Southern Utah’s next play from scrimmage, WSU safety Preston Smith picked off Miller at midfield.
Six plays later, Dontae McMillan rushed in a 2-yard touchdown. 21-0.
After the teams traded punts, things started to get out of hand for the Thunderbirds. On a second down from the SUU 9, a shotgun snap was perhaps fired early, went under Miller’s legs and into the end zone. Miller got to the ball first but couldn’t secure it.
Eddie Heckard, the only starting cornerback to travel, did secure it for a WSU touchdown, making it 28-0 with 8:45 left in the first half.
On the very next play from scrimmage, Weber State defensive end Okiki Olorunfunmi pressured Miller and batted his pass attempt high into the air. Defensive tackle Jared Schiess secured the ball at the 22 and returned it to the SUU 15 for the third interception of the half.
Three plays later in a jumbo run package, Barron handed off to usual defensive tackle Sione Lapuaho, who ran in a 1-yard touchdown to make it 35-0.
WSU then forced a three-and-out, and Haze Hadley returned the punt 40 yards to the SUU 26.
Three plays later, Barron threw an easy pitch-and-catch fade to Shaheed in the corner of the end zone from 8 yards out. Shaheed did a quick jig on the track surrounding the field, despite already having an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against him for spinning the football on the turf after his 47-yard score.
That made it 42-0 with 5 minutes left in the half, and Shaheed’s dance went harmlessly unnoticed.
The onslaught ended when a WSU third-and-1 rush went for a loss and Kyle Thompson booted through a 48-yard field goal as time expired, sending the teams into the half at 45-0.
Early in the third, runs of 19 yards by McMillan and 27 yards by Damon Bankston set up a 3-yard, Barron-to-Meacham touchdown pass for a 52-0 lead.
With usual safety Braxton Gunther playing cornerback all game, players like Abraham Williams, Jemaurri Bailey and Weber High walk-on Ty Barnett also got plenty of reps at corner. Barnett noticeably made a third-down stop before the sticks on a screen pass that was one of many efforts that led to the historically low SUU output of 76 yards.
With Randall Johnson at quarterback for the final 20 minutes, Thompson booted a 36-yard field goal to make it 55-0 with 11:25 left.
Weber State got the ball at its own 40 with 9:13 left and 12 consecutive run plays were not enough to milk the clock all the way down. Bankston bounced an inside run to the outside for a 6-yard touchdown, making it 62-0 with 2:02 left.
Barron finished 13 of 18 for 225 yards and three touchdowns, with Cooper going 1 of 1 for the 3-yard touchdown. Shaheed finished with three catches for 125 yards and the two touchdowns. Hadley caught one pass for 32 yards, Ty MacPherson three for 30, and Hudson Schenck and Jon Christensen each had one catch for 22 yards.
Weber State spread 38 non-quarterback carries across six ball carriers. Dave Jones led the yardage with 14 carries for 55 yards and Clay Moss added 38 yards on five carries. Bankston and Kris Jackson each rushed six times for 37 yards, and McMillan rushed six times for 35 yards, with Lapuaho’s one carry for 1 yard.
The Wildcats rushed for 220 yards on 4.5 yards per carry.
“I thought we ran the ball very effectively and thought our offensive line played very good against a loaded box We had three running backs rush for over 6 yards per carry,” Hill said. “Just so many things you can point to as to why I should be so proud of this team.”
Defensively, George Tarlas led WSU with five tackles and a sack. Birch tallied his sack, and Olorunfunmi and Mitchel Maxfield each had half of a sack.
Thomas Duckett led SUU with 31 yards on 10 carries. Miller threw 8 of 17 for 55 yards with three picks, and the Thunderbirds lost 23 yards on three sacks.
Weber State finishes the fall 2021 season at home, hosting Northern Colorado at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov 20, for senior day.
WSU’s 62 points are tied for ninth in most points scored in a single game, now achieved four times, including a 62-20 win over SUU in 1985. The 62-point margin of victory is the fourth-largest in program history.
It was Weber State’s first defensive shutout since the 2017 opener, a 76-0 win over Division II Montana Western, and its first defensive shutout in a Big Sky game since a 23-0 win over Northern Colorado in 2007.
And 76 yards allowed is the fourth-fewest total in WSU history. Against Division I opponents, it’s the second-fewest allowed only to 52 yards against Montana in 1966.
The blowout concluded Southern Utah’s 10-year run in the Big Sky Conference. The Thunderbirds are leaving the league for the Western Athletic Conference; they’ll now do so having lost 11 straight conference games and tallying a 4-26 league mark over the last four football seasons.