SALT LAKE CITY — Part of Utah’s 41-10 thrashing of Weber State on Thursday was expected. A bigger, more-skilled team from a power conference usually dominates FCS schools.
It manifested itself in the Utes’ comically lopsided total offense advantage: 587 yards against WSU’s 61.
Yet the halftime score (17-10 in favor of Utah) and especially the Wildcats’ early 10-0 lead reflected a timely effort by the Wildcats’ defense, which needed big plays to stay within striking distance and did so very well in the first half.
“I thought there were a lot of good things that we did, but the bottom line is that you have to play a complete game,” Weber State head coach Jay Hill said.
Buried in the yardage disparity is the turnover battle, which the Wildcats won 4-0. They bagged an interception, a fumble recovery on a punt and two more fumble recoveries in the fourth quarter.
Kallin Fisher recovered a fumble on a muffed punt return in the first quarter while the game was still scoreless, which led to a WSU field goal.
The biggest play early on was a Landon Stice interception in the second quarter that led to a 10-0 lead.
For a moment, the FCS vs. Power-5 upset alert was in full swing, but it eventually subsided.
WSU defenders kept making plays, however.
Leading 10-7, defensive lineman Filipe Sitake got a hand on a Matt Gay field goal and caused it to bounce harmlessly short.
Linebacker Auston Tesch, a Weber High alumnus, chased Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley out of bounds on third down to force a punt.
Keilan Benjamin made a big stop on fourth-and-1 near midfield as he held up Utah running back Zack Moss until the cavalry could arrive to force a turnover on downs with the score still 10-7.
Benjamin sacked Huntley a couple drives later as the Utes, leading 14-10 after Moss’s untouched 86-yard TD run, approached the Wildcats’ end zone.
The sack contributed to Utah settling for a field goal to take the 17-10 halftime lead.
“(At) the start, we were doing our jobs (and) assignments, but ... they started making a lot of plays and it just kind of went downhill from there,” linebacker Landon Stice said.
Utah scored 41 unanswered points, including 24 in the second half to WSU’s zero. In the fourth quarter as the demolition continued, though, Jawian Harrison and Jared Schiess recovered fumbles. But the Wildcats’ offense sputtered.
It’s all relative, though, as Utah’s defense had the Wildcats’ offense bottled up for less than 50 yards of total offense until the waning moments of the game.
Adam Rodriguez added two tackles for loss and Harrison joined Parker Preator with two pass breakups.