OGDEN — Weber State football won the coin toss in Saturday afternoon’s regular-season finale against Idaho State and the captains on the field elected for WSU to receive the ball.
Head coach Jay Hill looked perplexed, pretty clearly expecting his players to defer receiving to the second half if they won the coin toss.
It was about the only thing that went wrong for the No. 6 Wildcats during the day, who blasted their way through Idaho State 38-10 to win a share of their third-straight Big Sky Conference championship, assuring a high seed and a first-round bye in the upcoming playoffs.
WSU players hoisted the conference championship trophy on the field, mingled with family and friends, then went to the locker room to sing the fight song and party with the trophy some more.
“For a third time and as a senior, this means everything,” senior linebacker Auston Tesch said. “One way to put the cherry on top for this last dance ... we played well on offense, defense and special teams. Coming off that loss last week ... it was key we put all those things together.”
The victory brings more history for Weber State (9-3, 7-1 Big Sky).
Until recently, WSU had never won consecutive conference championships; Saturday brought a third straight. Until recently, WSU had not appeared more than two consecutive seasons in the playoffs; Saturday brought a fourth straight bid. Until recently, WSU had never earned a top seed in the FCS Playoffs; Saturday will bring a second-straight playoff seed.
The last one means a first-round bye for the Wildcats when the playoffs open Nov. 30, followed by a home playoff game on Dec. 7 and at least one more depending on results.
Junior quarterback Jake Constantine finished 16 of 23 for 289 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions to lead Weber State’s offense. David Ames caught four balls for 140 yards, giving WSU a 100-yard receiver in five straight games — matching their total for 2017 and 2018 combined.
Josh Davis rushed 12 times for 88 yards and a score, and Devon Cooley caught three passes for 68 yards and two touchdowns.
On the third play after the confusing coin flip, Constantine hit Ames on a slant route. Ames cut in front of hopeful defensive back Adkin Aguirre, who had jumped up for an interception. Instead, Ames grabbed it and had nobody between him and the end zone.
The 69-yard touchdown pass put Weber up 7-0 less than two minutes into the game and the Wildcats were off to the races.
“After last week, guys were determined to come out and compete and put a whooping on Idaho State, because a loss like that really hurts. It’s uncharacteristic of us, no doubt,” Constantine said. “Just connecting how we did and seeing guys play with confidence, you could tell everyone was having a lot of fun this week.”
Weber State’s first half continued its slow burn when a 62-yard drive ended with a Trey Tuttle 37-yard field goal, putting WSU up 10-0 on the first play of the second quarter.
WSU’s next drive reached a fourth-and-1 at the Idaho State 38. Constantine handed off to Davis, who pitched back to Constantine for a flea-flicker. Constantine lofted an easy pitch and catch to Devon Cooley down the field, with nobody around, for a 38-yard touchdown toss and a 17-0 lead.
The teams then traded punts on four straight series but, thanks to sacks from Adam Rodriguez and Jayden Palauni, the Wildcats flipped the field and forced an ISU punt from its own end zone.
With 3:51 left in the half, WSU needed three plays to go its needed 31 yards, ending when Davis scampered through the defense, picking up strong blocks by receivers, and dove into the end zone for a 24-yard rushing touchdown and a 24-0 lead.
WSU quickly forced a Bengals punt and Haze Hadley returned the ball 38 yards to the ISU 32.
On a third-and-3, Constantine hit Cooley at the sideline for a what looked like just a first down. But, he stayed balanced and the Bengals were hesitant, seeming to expect Cooley to step out of bounds to stop the clock. Cooley instead tip-toed up the sideline for a 25-yard touchdown with 8 seconds left in the half.
Weber State took that 31-0 lead into the locker room while other developments around the country starting falling in line for the Wildcats.
Not long before WSU hit halftime, No. 8 Montana State finished off a 48-14 rout of No. 3 Montana.
As Weber State embarked on a slow-churning, 13-play drive late in the third quarter, South Dakota forced two fumbles in the final seven minutes to upset No. 5 South Dakota State 24-21.
That long WSU drive — 75 yards in 6:55 — ended in points when Constantine fired a frozen rope to Ty MacPherson in the back of the end zone. MacPherson hauled in a contested catch for a 6-yard touchdown and a 38-3 lead with 1:21 left in the third quarter.
“To send these seniors out the way we are right now is awesome,” Hill said. “Three straight championships, the winningest class in school history, there are just so many positives about today and the way they played was just outstanding.”
From there, Idaho State (3-9, 2-6) opted to give freshman quarterback Sagan Gronauer reps and backup defenders like Doug Schiess, BJ Taufalele, Sherwin Lavaka, Aaron Sessions, Andrew Dean and Kamden Garrett held the Bengals at bay for most of the fourth quarter.
The Bengals found the end zone with 2:06 left when Gronauer hit Michael Dean for a 49-yard touchdown pass to make it 38-10.
WSU, meanwhile, opted to give junior Daniel Wright Jr. his first reps of the season at running back, feeding him a steady diet of carries to salt the game away.
Weber State outgained ISU 443-186 in the contest.
Conner Mortensen led WSU with eight tackles, including two for loss. George Tarlas, McKade Mitto and Sione Lapuaho joined Rodriguez and Palauni in each recording one sack.
Not everything quite lined up for Weber State. No. 4 Sacramento State scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to avoid an upset and beat UC Davis 27-17 to clinch a share of the conference championship with the Wildcats. It’s Sac State’s first Big Sky championship and the Hornets will go o the playoffs for the first time.
WSU and the rest of the playoff field learns their fates at 10:30 a.m. Sunday when the "FCS Playoff Selection Show" airs on ESPNU.