OGDEN — Weber State junior quarterback Jake Constantine said his team’s 30-27 win Saturday over North Dakota was about “gritting your teeth and getting the job done, even though you know as a team that was probably one of our worst games this year.”
Indeed, his second interception, thrown at the goal line with the No. 3 Wildcats driving to take a 27-24 lead, seemed to take the air out of Stewart Stadium.
Down 24-20, WSU had given up an early 14-0 lead and drives that reached North Dakota yard lines of the 16, 20, 35 and 12 had produced only six more points.
But Constantine’s big runs while “running pretty mad” helped WSU get off the mat and tie the game late, only to be gifted a kickoff return fumble and eventually win the contest with a field goal.
“Hopefully, resilient,” is what head coach Jay Hill said he learned about his team Saturday.
“We’ve won big like we did last week. This week, we pulled out a tight one,” he said. “And hopefully, a little bit of a wake-up call knowing that ... every team is going to give us their best shot. We’ve got to know that and we got it today from North Dakota. You’ve got to give them a lot of credit, they played lights out tonight.”
Despite beating three ranked teams, North Dakota players were visibly gutted after the loss as their playoff hopes hit life support with a 5-4 record. It’s one of the many examples of how the FCS postseason system sets up a season-long playoff where every game matters to build your resume.
“Playoff football started for us about five weeks ago,” Hill said. “That’s what I love about this level is you’re fighting to get in the playoffs and win conference championships. Every game means so much.”
The victory moved Weber State to 8-0 against FCS opponents, the only such undefeated team in the Big Sky and one of few nationally. WSU is 28-4 against FCS teams in the last three seasons.
The Wildcats are likely to remain at their No. 3 ranking. Montana should move up to No. 5, marking a third top-10 opponent this season for WSU when the Wildcats visit Missoula next week. Northern Iowa, which WSU beat 29-17, could move up to No. 4 and Sacramento State, who WSU beat 36-17, could move as high as No. 6 when next week’s rankings are released.
“There’s a lot riding on it,” Hill said. “Every single year it seems like we have to win out to win the championship and this year is no different. If you’re going to win the championship, you pretty much have to win out. Montana’s got to win out. In the Big Sky Conference, that’s how it gets.”
So where does WSU stand, surviving a scare against North Dakota and going on the road for a huge matchup?
“Our team has been there, they’ve done it, they’ve handled it well,” Hill said. “Hopefully, this (North Dakota) game will be a big shot in the arm to do great next week.”