One thing’s for sure: Josh Davis knows what to do with the football in his hands.
The Weber State freshman picked up where his high-school career left off, rushing for 177 yards and two touchdowns in his first real college action, leading the No. 10 Wildcats to a 24-17 victory at Cal Poly on Saturday night in San Luis Obispo, California.
“Josh is a heck of a player, we knew it, he played well tonight and we needed him to play well tonight,” WSU head coach Jay Hill said. “I’m excited about his future.”
With the game tied 14-14 near the end of the third quarter, Davis racked up 40 rushing yards on three carries to help the Wildcats (1-1) deep into Cal Poly (0-2) territory.
Two plays later, Jake Constantine threw a perfect pitch-and-catch on a play-action, going over the top to Rashid Shaheed for a 20-yard touchdown. That gave the Wildcats a 21-14 lead.
Constantine, who took over at quarterback late in the second quarter for an injured Kaden Jenks, led the seven-play, 77-yard drive in less than three minutes, during which the Wildcats did not face a third down.
Davis — who rushed for a whopping 2,645 yards and 28 touchdowns as an Alta High senior in 2016 as the Utah Gatorade player of the year — got even more impressive as the game wore on.
After Constantine delivered a pair of completions, Davis ripped a 60-yard run to the Cal Poly 5, weaving around blockers and sprinting past the secondary. Two plays later, he ran left and successfully dove for the pylon, putting the Wildcats ahead 24-10.
With the score 24-17 and with a chance to salt the game away, Constantine was sacked and fumbled on a third down but somehow found his way to the ball to recover inside WSU’s 20. Luckily, Weber State could punt it away.
A few plays later, with Cal Poly to the WSU 39, Jonah Williams forced Jake Jeffrey into a fumble and Adam Rodriguez recovered, ending the threat with 1:52 left in the game.
Davis rushed for 12 more yards, allowing for a pair of kneel-downs and the win.
“Every time you come down here, you’ve got to expect a dogfight. You’re playing against the option ... they made some plays, we made some plays, it just happened that we made some of the ones down the stretch that mattered,” Hill said.
“Proud of the offense for the way they rebounded to stick that last touchdown in there and to get the last first down was big.”
Constantine finished 9 of 15 for 84 yards and a touchdown. Jenks was 6 of 9 for 47 yards before leaving. Neither threw an interception.
Shaheed finished with 56 receiving yards, with Devon Cooley adding 22 and David Ames 20.
The effort allowed the Wildcats to survive an unusual 133 passing yards from Cal Poly. Jeffrey connected with JJ Koski seven times for 127 of those yards, keeping WSU on its heels in the second half.
Several defensive plays stood out in the first half. After Davis fumbled early in the second quarter to give the Mustangs a 38-yard field, a third-and-long resulted in a sack from LeGrand Toia that forced a punt.
Weber stuffed a fourth-and-2 near midfield on the next drive.
Landon Stice finished with a team-leading 12 tackles. Toia and Jawian Harrison totaled nine and Rodriguez finished with two tackles-for-loss.
The Wildcats wasted no time leaving last week’s offensive performance behind. After a chop-block penalty put the Wildcats well behind the sticks on the first play of the game, Davis rushed for 12 yards and Jenks hit Cooley for 14 yards and a first down.
Jenks completed passes to Ames for 15 and Isiah Jackson for 10 on the drive. On a third-and-2 at the Cal Poly 17, Jenks made a nice decision to keep a zone-read play, sending a defensive end flying past the play, and sprinted up the middle to the 3.
Davis punched it in on the next play, completing a six-minute, 73-yard drive to put Weber State up 7-0 to open the game.
With three minutes left in the first half, Davis returned a punt 17 yards near midfield. Constantine completed a fourth-down conversion to Shaheed then scrambled to the Cal Poly 6, setting up Trey Tuttle for a 21-yard field goal and a 10-3 lead with 10 seconds left in the half.
Cal Poly fumbled the ensuing kickoff and, as time expired, Tuttle missed a 51-yard effort that had the distance but was wide right, ending the half.
Weber State returns for its home opener to host No. 23 South Dakota (1-1) at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15.