Weber State scores 3 TDs in final 7 minutes in wild rally for 28-21 win at Northern Colorado
Weber State’s defense had done just about everything it could to give its offense time to get back into the game.
After getting down 21-7 to Northern Colorado in the first half, WSU’s defense had held the Bears to 64 total yards over five possessions running up to the end of the third quarter and still, the WSU offense couldn’t close the gap.
Quarterback Jacob Sirmon and the Bears finally got a drive going and looked to be putting the game away, but the Wildcats had one more play to keep the game alive. On a fourth-and-5 at the WSU 30, Sirmon found receiver Blake Haggerty over the middle — but WSU safety Naseme Colvin was there to stop Haggerty 1 yard short of the line to gain, turning the ball over on downs to Weber State with 9:31 left.
What happened next was as close to impossible as improbable could be.
The Wildcats scored three touchdowns from that point, picked off Sirmon three times and even survived a momentum-killing interception of their own to claim a 28-21 win Saturday in Greeley, Colorado, resurrecting a sure defeat into their first conference win and denying Ed Lamb his first victory at Northern Colorado.
“Not to flinch there at the end … that’s big-time. That just shows you the character of these guys, the staff,” WSU head coach Mickey Mental said. “I appreciate everything they do.”
First, the offense got off the mat to make Colvin’s stop count. A struggling Weisser threw a screen to Haze Hadley and he scooted up the right sideline for 33 yards on a block from Treyshun Hurry. Weisser hit Jacob Sharp on an 18-yard play to set up the quarterback for a 1-yard touchdown sneak, making it 21-14 with 6:34 left.
Since the clock runs on first downs, Weber State couldn’t afford to give up many, if any, and defensive end Cameren Cope obliged with a batted-pass breakup on the next third down Northern Colorado had. The Bears punted back to Weber State with 4:45 left.
After the home team started 6 of 6 on third downs, Weber State (3-2, 1-1 Big Sky) held Northern Colorado to 2 of their final 10 third-down conversion attempts.
“Our defensive staff did a fantastic job making an adjustment, pushing that pocket vertically up the middle and not allowing him to step up, making it cloudy,” Mental said. “Then the edges enclosed on him … good move by our defensive staff and our players performed and executed at a high level.”
It wasn’t a straight line from there. Weisser threw his third interception of the game — all were rather poorly misfired throws — on a deep route to Tajon Evans. Evans was open over the deep middle on a post but Weisser threw over his head to the sideline, where Cameron Murray picked it off at the Northern Colorado 29 with 3:50 left. It appeared the game was likely over.
But reinvigorated by its two big stops, Weber State’s defensive front seven changed the game.
Two plays later, disruptive playmaker Jack Kelly flashed to hit Sirmon on a secondary blitz and the linebacker hit him as he threw, popping the ball up in a flutter where Abraham Williams saw it into his arms at the 36. Williams returned the interception 14 yards to the NC 22.
Running back Kris Jackson rushed for all 22 of the remaining yards, punching in a 5-yard score to tie the game 21-21 with 2:28 left. Jackson finished with 105 yards on 20 carries, scoring two touchdowns and stepping up with Damon Bankston getting banged up during the game.
In a matter of two minutes, thoughts of Weber’s improbable comeback changed to wonders if they’d left Northern Colorado too much time.
Despite continued pressure, Sirmon delivered a ball to Jamarii Robinson for 15-yards quickly to the Weber 40 on Northern Colorado’s first play. It looked as if the Bears might be able to find their first-half offense and march as Robinson was up to 73 yards on seven catches.
But the pressure was too much. On the next play, defensive tackle Steven Bryant bullied his blocker into Sirmon’s space and Cope arrived, too, just when Sirmon pulled back to throw. Sirmon’s ball went directly to linebacker Winston Reid at the 40, and Reid jogged up the right sideline for the astonishing go-ahead touchdown with 1:46 left.
“Glad he’s on our team,” Mental said of Reid. “Amazing performance by Winston. He earns everything … behind the scenes, he puts himself in those positions to be successful because of how he prepares and how he works.”
Northern Colorado (0-5, 0-2) still had 1:46 and two timeouts to go 75 yards but WSU’s defense made sure that wouldn’t happen. Brayden Wilson sacked Sirmon on second down, then good coverage made Sirmon slowly roll right hoping to find anything on third down. He didn’t, and instead threw across the field into triple coverage where linebacker Garrett Beck made the best jump to the ball for a game-ending interception.
Weisser finished 14 of 29 for 201 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions. Hadley caught three balls for 55 yards and tight end Hayden Meacham had two catches for 42 yards. Evans had 40 yards on a run-after-catch bubble screen.
Reid finished with a team-high 10 tackles and Colvin had nine. Kelly totaled eight tackles to go with his game-influencing plays.
Sirmon finished 28 of 42 for 287 yards, two touchdowns and three picks. David Afari rushed 12 times for 63 yards, but his second-half total was four carries for 1 yard. Tight end Kyle Helbig had four catches for 60 yards.
Weber State got the game’s first possession and looked like it would spend the hot afternoon going up and down the field against Northern Colorado’s 500-plus-yards-allowed-per-game defense.
WSU used 10 plays to travel 75 yards — keyed by a 21-yard, roll-out pass to Meacham and finished on a 3-yard scoring run by Jackson — to make it 7-0 in the game’s first minutes.
Weber State had Northern Colorado stopped on its first possession after two incompletions at the NC 39, but defensive tackle Matt Herron shoved Sirmon after a basic throw away on third down. That flag put the Bears across midfield and only two plays later, Helbig caught a 6-yard touchdown pass. Herron got a point back by blocking the PAT, making it 7-6.
But Northern Colorado would score on its next two possessions while Weber State’s offense began to deteriorate. A WSU drive near the NC 20 ended with Kyle Thompson missing a 34-yard field goal.
The Bears then took a whopping 15 plays and 7:33 of game time to go 75 yards and take a 13-7 lead when Sirmon threw a jump ball won by Fisher Clements at the back of the end zone with 13:28 to go in the second quarter.
WSU’s next drive ended when Weisser was sacked and Jack Burgess, who punted three times for 146 yards (48.7 average, all three inside the NC 20) booted a 58-yarder to the Bears’ 7-yard line.
No matter. Sirmon passed Northern Colorado down the field until Afari ripped a 28-yard touchdown run, starting left and then bouncing outside to the right. A successful two-point pass to Haggerty made it 21-7 with 4:44 left before halftime.
WSU’s next possession got across midfield mostly thanks to an NC facemask penalty. Weisser delivered an on-target slant to Hurry near the NC 30 that was likely a touchdown, but he dropped it. On fourth-and-5 from the NC 42, Sharp beat his man on the outside and was open at the goal line but Weisser’s ball was well underthrown, allowing Tizell Lewis to pick it off.
The string of defensive stops began for Weber State, starting with a three-and-out, but Weisser ended the next drive on an interception as well. On fourth-and-3 at the NC 36, he threw late to a crossing Evans beyond the first-down line and floated the throw. That allowed Jacob Stanton to pick it off at the 31.
When Jackson was stopped for a loss on a fourth-and-2 at the Northern Colorado 13 early in a stalemate third quarter, it appeared Weber State was doomed to spin its offensive wheels for a third straight week while suffering another double-digit loss.
Colvin’s fourth-down tackle began to change it all.
Weber State next hosts Northern Arizona, who comes to Stewart Stadium at 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7.
AROUND THE BIG SKY
No. 4 Idaho 44, No. 19 Eastern Washington 36
No. 3 Montana State 38, Portland State 22
No. 8 Sacramento State 31, Northern Arizona 30
No. 18 Montana 28, Idaho State 20
No. 21 UC Davis 31, Cal Poly 13
AROUND THE TOP 10
No. 1 South Dakota State 42, No. 12 North Dakota 21
South Dakota 24, No. 2 North Dakota State 19
Elon 14, No. 5 William & Mary 6
Harvard 39, No. 6 Holy Cross 28
No. 10 Southern Illinois 33, Missouri State 20