OGDEN — Weber State and Nevada have not contested a football game since the early 1990s — and what a history the teams left all those decades ago.
The two programs play again Saturday for the first time since’ 1993 in a matchup of an FCS team out of the Big Sky and an upper-division FBS squad in the Mountain West.
But first, a brief revisitation of the history left in the ’90s.
In 1991, Jamie Martin and the Wildcats were putting an absolute beatdown on Nevada, undefeated and the No. 1 team in what was then called Division I-AA. After leading 42-14 at halftime, Weber State scored again to open the second half to go up 49-14.
When the fourth-quarter clock hit 0:00, however, Nevada had a 55-49 win. It’s still the greatest comeback in college football history.
Nevada then left the Big Sky and moved up to Division I-A, which is now called FBS, joining the Big West Conference. The Wolf Pack posted winning records in its first five I-A seasons, including making the Las Vegas Bowl in that first season in 1992.
The Pack scheduled Weber State for two more games in Reno to begin its I-A journey and lost both: a 23-21 decision in 1992 and 47-30 in 1993.
The latter remains the last time Weber State has defeated a I-A/FBS opponent, with a handful of close calls in between — including this season’s 6-0 loss at San Diego State.
Senior linebacker Auston Tesch expressed excitement after last week’s 41-24 home win over Cal Poly at the prospect of getting another chance to play an FBS team.
“The pressure’s really on them,” Tesch said.
Nevada (1-1) scored one of Week 1’s biggest wins two weeks ago, erasing a 17-point, third-quarter deficit to beat Power 5 opponent Purdue. Kicker Brandon Talton booted a 56-yard field goal as time expired for a 34-31 Nevada win.
Last week, the Pack simply got taken to the cleaners in a 77-6 loss at Oregon, after which a defensive lineman said his team “gave up.”
WSU head coach Jay Hill seems most focused on the first of those games.
“They didn’t play great against Oregon, but Oregon can have that affect on people,” Hill said. “They beat Purdue Week 1. This is a good team, we’re going to have to play our best game, we understand that.
“I don’t think our guys are intimidated. Now, they’re going to have to play great ... But that’s fun,” he continued. “For a team that has good players like we do, it’s a good challenge and usually our guys have stepped up to the challenge and have given a good showing. Now we’ve got to pull one of these games off.”
Nevada poses an interesting offensive mix, marrying some of Hall-of-Famer Chris Ault’s pistol offense — a modified shotgun look that puts a running back behind the quarterback — with the run and shoot, a pass-heavy spread offense that has receivers adjust routes according to the defense.
“I see a pretty balanced mix between those two offenses,” Hill said. “They can get some downhill runs — quite frankly, it’s a lot of what we saw against San Diego State. It’s a spread offense that gives you the ability to run under-center runs and shotgun runs.”
The point man for that offense is quarterback Carson Strong. The freshman has completed 56.6% of his passes for three touchdowns and two interceptions, averaging 192 passing yards per game. He’s credited with eight non-sack rushing attempts through two games.
Against two Power 5 opponents, Nevada is averaging 3.0 yards per carry. Running backs Toa Taua, Jaxson Kincade and Kelton Moore have been given a near-equal number of carries. Taua’s 69 total yards and 3.8 yards per carry are the best among the three.
With a tough opening schedule, an FCS opponent looks like a reprieve after the shellacking Nevada took at Oregon, but head coach Jay Norvell said all the right things at his Monday press conference.
“Really excited this week to get back on the field and prepare for Weber State, one of the, probably, most disciplined, well-coached teams in the country,” Norvell said in a video posted by Nevada Sports Net. “I’ve been talking about Weber State for several months with our team.
“I have so much respect for how they play, how they’re prepared and what coach Hill does with that team ... They make you earn everything you get. It’s a good prep for us this week to get back on the right side of things.”
Saturday’s game kicks off at 5 p.m. MDT. It can be seen on watchespn.com or on the ESPN mobile app, with a radio call on 1430 AM KLO.