Shaheed sets FCS return TD record, Weber State pushes away Idaho State 40-17
When the turnover bug reared its ugly head again Saturday for Weber State football — a Jayden Dawson 55-yard pick-six for Idaho State to make the game 20-17 in the third quarter — it looked like the Wildcats would have to grind out an unnecessarily close game because of losing the turnover battle.
But senior receiver and kick return king Rashid Shaheed had other ideas.
Shaheed took the ensuing kickoff at Weber State 2-yard line on the right hash, looped up the left side of the field, beat the first attacker on the edge with his speed, got an escort from freshman linebacker Jack Kelly upfield, and cruised to a 98-yard kick-return touchdown.
Nobody in the history of FCS football, the subdivision created in 1979, has returned more kickoffs for touchdowns than Shaheed. His seventh such touchdown spurred Weber State on to a 40-17 win at Holt Arena in Pocatello, Idaho.
“I couldn’t be more happy for Rashid Shaheed,” WSU head coach Jay Hill said. “That’s a huge deal. There’s not many times you get to be the NCAA all-time leader in something.”
HISTORY! @RashidShaheed returns a kickoff 98-yards for a touchdown.
It’s his 7th career kickoff return for a TD, a new @NCAA_FCS record!
???? – ESPN+#WeAreWeber #BigSkyFB pic.twitter.com/k9LR4sp5RE
— Weber State Football ???? (@weberstatefb) October 30, 2021
Shaheed put Weber State up 7-0 in a game it never trailed, catching a 36-yard touchdown pass from Bronson Barron on WSU’s first drive of the game. Shaheed finished with 295 all-purpose yards: four catches for 95 yards, 174 kick-return yards, and 28 more on punt return.
Aside from a seven-play, 65-yard Idaho State touchdown drive to end the first half that made the score 17-10, Weber State (4-4, 3-2 Big Sky) held the Bengals to little offensively, ultimately allowing less than 200 yards of ISU offense.
Tanner Conner caught seven balls for 110 yards for Idaho State (1-7, 1-5), which finished as more than half the team’s total. When WSU linebacker BJ Taufalele sacked Sagan Gronauer for a loss of 9 yards and George Tarlas batted a pass at the line of scrimmage on ISU’s final possession, it landed the Bengals at 193 yards of offense.
After going up 10-3, Weber State made it 17-3 in the second quarter on a 13-play, 68-yard drive that survived a false start near the goal line and a bungled block setup on the scoring play that ultimately saw Kris Jackson run in a TD from 2 yards out.
Leading 17-10 coming out of halftime, a false start put WSU behind the sticks after a 40-yard completion to Shaheed to start the half, ultimately leading to Kyle Thompson’s second field goal, this one from 37 yards, for a 20-10 advantage.
With 5:30 left in the third, Dawson picked a Barron throw to the flat and had little resistance going 55 yards for the score.
Shaheed then instantly flipped momentum with his record-setting return to make it 27-17.
“Special teams were huge today,” Hill said. “It’s a demoralizing weapon that we have against opponents when you have Shaheed back there. All of the sudden they have all the momentum, they kick right to him and it’s all gone again.”
With some struggles consistently running the ball, Weber turned to its run package centered on freshman quarterback Creyton Cooper. In the third quarter, Cooper picked up gains of 13, 16, 14 and 5 yards.
Cooper then threw a 12-yard completion to Ty MacPherson to open the fourth quarter, eventually setting up Jackson on a 1-yard TD bowling plunge for a 34-17 lead.
On its next possession, Barron completed an 18-yard pass to Randal Grimes and Dave Jones rushed three times for 22 yards to set up another series inside the ISU 10. But on a play Hill credited to a coaching error, Cooper fumbled a third-down snap at the ISU 4 as the Wildcats looked to put the game away, and the Bengals recovered with 5:32 left.
“We kind of stepped up and said OK, we’re not going to let this be close and I thought we played outstanding after that point, other than the fumble down on the goal line where we were just on the wrong personnel group,” Hill said. “That’s a deal we’ve got to get cleaned up as coaches.”
Down 2-0 in the turnover battle, special teams helped salve the pain again for Weber State. After holding Idaho State to a three-and-out, Naseme Colvin snaked through the punt protection and stuffed a Bengals punt in the end zone. The ball shot sideways and, in the ensuing scramble, Winston Reid eventually came up with the ball in the end zone for a touchdown and the final 40-17 margin.
Despite some sloppiness, Weber State ultimately outgained Idaho State 405-193.
Barron finished 14 of 24 for 209 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Shaheed led with 93 receiving yards, MacPherson added three grabs for 35 yards, and Haze Hadley had two for 24.
Cooper led WSU in rushing with 59 yards on 11 attempts. Jones added 38 yards, Dontae McMillan 35 yards, and Jackson 33 yards with two touchdowns.
Jared Schiess led a balanced ledger of tacklers with six for WSU, adding a sack and 2.5 tackles for loss. Linebackers Taufalele and Spencer Niutupuivaha also recorded a sack each. Defensive backs Desmond Williams, Preston Smith and Kam Garrett each had five tackles.
Between Gronauer and Hunter Hays, Idaho State passers went 17 of 29 for 169 yards. Tyevin Ford was the Bengals’ leading rusher, taking five carries for 12 yards.
Weber State’s playoff to make the playoffs continues at home when the Wildcats host Portland State at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 6, at Stewart Stadium.