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Disruptive ‘D’ leads Weber State football to score 20 straight, put away Northern Iowa 34-17

By Brett Hein - Standard-Examiner | Sep 9, 2023
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Weber State running back Damon Bankston carries the ball against Northern Iowa on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023, in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
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Weber State's Matt Herron, left, sacks Northern Iowa quarterback Theo Day on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023, in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
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Weber State's Kylan Weisser (11) uncorks what became a 77-yard pass to Jacob Sharp against Northern Iowa on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023, in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
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Weber State safety LJ Anderson, left, returns an interception against Northern Iowa on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023, in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
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Weber State's Matt Herron (97) flexes to celebrate his sack against Northern Iowa on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023, in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

At one point in Saturday’s top-25 contest between No. 12 Weber State and No. 21 Northern Iowa, Panthers senior quarterback Theo Day had completed 6 of his last 7 passes for 129 yards.

He capped that flurry with a 5-yard touchdown to Sam Schnee while falling down on a run-pass option and Northern Iowa went up 10-7 early in the second quarter.

By the game’s end, you’d never know Weber State looked like it might not have an answer for Day.

The Wildcats picked Day off three times (plus another called back by penalty), sacked him five times (two of which resulted in fumbles) and the WSU defense completely sidelined the UNI offense in the second half.

Weber State scored 20 unanswered points and left Northern Iowa with a 34-17 victory to improve to 2-0 on the season.

“The defense, that’s their ball, man. I love how they play with that fire,” WSU head coach Mickey Mental said in a postgame radio interview. “They flew around and did a really good job against a really good offense, so I’m really, really happy with how they played today.”

Junior running back Damon Bankston eclipsed the century mark for the second time this season, running 22 times for 144 yards and three touchdowns.

Linebacker Jack Kelly factored in several big defensive plays, forcing two fumbles (both recovered by WSU) and tipping a pass that led to an interception. The defense swarmed big running back Tye Edwards to 53 yards on 16 attempts — a 3.3 yards-per-carry average that was much better than the 4.5 average Iowa State allowed him in Week 1.

After spinning wheels for a time, Weber State flexed some muscle and picked up a big road win.

“It’s a credit to both the O and D line. To be a championship team, you’ve got to be really, really good up front, and physical and violent, especially like a game like this where it’s going to come down to a fourth-and-1, a third-and-1,” Mental said. “And I thought the guys did a really good job in those situations.”

Kylan Weisser launched a 77-yard pass to Jacob Sharp on Weber State’s first offensive play of the game and Bankston punched in the final 3 yards for an early 7-0 lead.

But after that, the Wildcats went three-and-out three times and Weisser threw a deep interception that gave the ball back to Northern Iowa one play after Kelly stripped Edwards and Brayden Wilson recovered for the Wildcats.

So when Day led the Panthers to that 10-7 lead, it seemed perhaps the 77-yard play was a fluke and first downs, let alone points, might be elusive for WSU.

But once the lid came off on an 11-yard pass to Kris Jackson on third down, the Wildcats got it going. Jackson picked up a fourth-and-1 just beyond midfield to keep the drive going, and Bankston finished it by absorbing a hit at the line of scrimmage, gathering himself and bursting to a 26-yard touchdown run for a 14-10 lead with 3:30 left in the first half.

A late hit out of bounds on the kickoff gave Northern Iowa a 60-yard field and it was mostly Edwards who got the ball down the field for UNI. He followed a 14-yard reception with a 1-yard touchdown run to put the home team ahead 17-14 with 1:02 left.

Day was 14 of 25 for 213 yards and one touchdown in the first half. That was the last time Northern Iowa would score.

Weber State knotted the score when Abraham Williams returned the kickoff 38 yards to the UNI 42, then Weisser hit Jayleen Record for 38 yards on a fourth-and-7 down to the UNI 2.

After a confusing first-down spike, two incomplete passes and a defensive pass interference penalty, Kyle Thompson put through a 19-yard field goal to make it 17-17 at halftime.

Northern Iowa would gain just 96 yards in the second half.

On the Panthers’ second play of the second half, WSU’s Kelly leaped to deflect a Day pass across the middle. Safety LJ Anderson was there to pick it off and give a short return to the UNI 10.

Two plays later, Weisser play-action faked to Adrian Cormier and tight end Hayden Meacham leaked open into the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown and a 24-17 Weber State lead.

Five plays later and at midfield, Kelly recovered his own strip sack after hitting the ball as Day pulled back to throw. Thompson missed a 35-yard field goal on the ensuing drive, however, and the score remained 24-17.

Northern Iowa’s first play of the fourth quarter saw WSU’s Jalon Rock smack Day on a corner blitz and jar the ball loose, though UNI recovered. Day also threw a near-pick to Maxwell Anderson.

With 7:55 left, Schnee tried to field a bouncing, rolling Jack Burgess punt at the UNI 23 and couldn’t handle it. Clarence Butler recovered for Weber State.

A first-down holding penalty put the kibosh on a potential touchdown on WSU’s resulting possession but Thompson split the uprights on a 43-yard field goal with 5:55 left for a 27-17 score.

Those final minutes were eventful. Williams picked off Day and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown but that was negated by an undetectable pass interference against Williams, a penalty also offset by a UNI facemask during the return.

With 3:35 left, safety Naseme Colvin made it count by intercepting Day with no flags. Northern Iowa burned two timeouts on a pair of WSU rush attempts, then Bankston called ballgame with a 58-yard burst through the tackles for a touchdown, making it 34-17 at the 3:16 mark.

“That last one was blocked really, really nice on the counter,” Mental said. “O-line, tight end did their job and obviously (Bankston) just did what he always does and once he gets that second level, turn it on.”

Maxwell Anderson got his interception for good measure, getting Day a few plays later as UNI attempted a quick drive.

Weisser pulled back a third-and-2 handoff and ran 24 yards to the UNI 1-yard line with 1:01 left in the game, but the Panthers stuffed Cormier on an ensuing rush and WSU let the clock run out.

Day finished 23 of 41 for 312 yards for Northern Iowa. Sergio Morancy caught six passes for 120 yards and Schnee had seven receptions for 97 yards.

For Weber State, Weisser was 11 of 22 for 179 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Sharp caught two balls for 82 yards, Record had the 38-yarder and Meacham caught two passes for 20 yards. Jackson added 30 rushing yards.

Linebacker Winston Reid led WSU with 11 tackles, one for loss. Kelly had two sacks, Easton Payne and Matt Herron one sack each, and Mapa Vaenuku and Cameren Cope each had half of a sack. Williams had two pass breakups.

The Wildcats next go to Utah. The Utes were ranked No. 12 in FBS entering the week and scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to escape with a win at Baylor.


No. 3 Montana State was inches from defeating No. 1 South Dakota State. The Bobcats appeared to throw a touchdown pass with one second remaining but upon video review, the receiver did not get a foot down inbounds in the back of the end zone.

Idaho hammered FBS Nevada even worse than predictors favored the Vandals, while Eastern Washington nearly got an FBS win but lost in two overtimes at Fresno State.


South Dakota State 20, Montana State 16

Idaho 33, Nevada 6

Fresno State 34, Eastern Washington 31 (2 OT)

Sacramento State 34, Texas A&M Commerce 6

Oregon State 55, UC Davis 7

Montana 43, Utah Tech 13

Utah State 78, Idaho State 28

Wyoming 31, Portland State 17

San Jose State 59, Cal Poly 3

North Dakota 37, Northern Arizona 22

Incarnate Word 42, Northern Colorado 7


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