Games against FBS teams aren’t supposed to be won by FCS teams. It’s a rare upset, one that Weber State hasn’t pulled since 1993.
After losing 6-0 in Week 1 to San Diego State, the Wildcats had yet another close call Saturday.
Nevada gashed the Weber State defense between the 20s, the Wildcats stood strong defensively when it counted but didn’t get enough offensively and eventually took a 19-13 loss at Mackay Stadium in Reno, Nevada.
Each team scored only one touchdown, but Nevada’s 453-137 yardage advantage eventually wore down the Wildcats (1-2) enough to get Brandon Talton four field goals for the Wolf Pack (2-1).
Weber State junior quarterback Jake Constantine was sidelined with a knee injury suffered last week against Cal Poly. Sophomore Kaden Jenks got the start and threw 6 of 21 for 57 yards.
Constantine’s specific status was not known Saturday, though the quarterback did post a video of himself preparing a knee procedure Thursday on Instagram.
WSU rushed 27 times for 74 yards. Kevin Smith gained a net of 26 yards and Josh Davis 25. The Wildcats also took 26 negative yards on rushing plays as part of their total.
“We’ve got to get some stuff fixed on offense right now,” Weber State head coach Jay Hill said. “We’re not explosive enough, we’re not running the ball good enough against the good teams. That was disappointing today, the overall production of the offense.”
Nevada’s only touchdown would prove to be enough. Weber State led 10-9 at halftime, but the Wolf Pack took their first possession of the second half nine plays and 85 yards, finding the end zone when Jaxson Kincaide took a seam outside for a 33-yard rushing touchdown.
That put Nevada up 16-10 with 7:50 left in the third quarter.
The Wildcats had an opportunity to answer in the next sequence. After Doug Lloyd converted a fake punt on fourth-and-15 to get to midfield, he later punted that possession away. Davis and Dave Jones converged at the goal line to bat the punt back into the field, and it was downed at the Nevada 4.
Weber held Nevada to a net of zero yards on their series from the 4, including a second-down QB pressure that was nearly an intentional grounding that would’ve also been ruled a safety. A punt into the wind netted only 30 yards and Weber State took over on the Nevada 32.
But offensive inefficiency bit again. With 32 yards to go for a TD, WSU went three and out, gaining just two yards, and Trey Tuttle put through his second field goal of the night from 47 yards. That cut Nevada’s lead to 16-13 late in the third quarter.
Jonah Williams recorded his third sack of Nevada quarterback Carson Strong early in the fourth quarter to help force another Pack punt, but Rashid Shaheed fielded a bouncing ball headed into the end zone at the 2 and stepped out at the 3.
WSU moved the ball outside of the shadows of its own goal line but punted to its 41.
With the short field, Weber eventually forced Strong into an incompletion on third down from the Weber 16. Talton kicked a 34-yard field goal for the final margin with 4:49 left.
“We didn’t do a good enough job on defense, offense. We made some plays on special teams, which was OK. Way too many mistakes tonight,” Hill said. “I’m not very happy with this performance, quite frankly.”
Strong and the Nevada passing offense — which finished 30 of 44 for 299 yards — gashed Weber State on several drives in the first half, finding holes over the middle on crossing routes. But Preston Smith picked off an attempted sideline throwaway from Strong to end a first-quarter drive and Maxwell Anderson picked off another pass in the second quarter.
Nevada held a 3-0 lead at the end of the first, though Weber’s best offensive drive nearly produced a touchdown to end the frame. From the Weber 36, Smith burst for a 16-yard run and later took a bubble screen 10 yards. With the help of a personal foul penalty, Weber was at Nevada’s 22.
On the final play of the first quarter, Jenks threw to an open Shaheed up the sideline and at the front of the end zone. As Shaheed turned to make the catch, EJ Muhammad dove just in time to knock the ball away. Tuttle kicked a 43-yard field goal one minute into the second quarter to tie it 3-3.
On Nevada’s next possession, a McKade Mitton sack helped force a three and out from the Wolf Pack. The ensuing punt was blocked, credited to Raoul Johnson, and careened out of bounds at the Nevada 15.
After a short run, Jenks threw a long ball across the hashes and to the back corner of the end zone, perfectly finding Shaheed for an 11-yard touchdown toss before Shaheed went out of bounds. That put Weber State ahead 10-3 with 11 minutes left in the first half.
Nevada then took two drives inside the Weber 10 and twice the WSU defense held the Pack out of the end zone. The two resulting field goals provided the 10-9 halftime margin.
Brody Burke, Noah Vaea and Conner Mortensen were all credited with 10 tackles to lead WSU. Vaea had two for loss, joining Williams’ three sacks, and the Wildcats recorded 11 tackles for loss.
Shaheed caught three balls for 30 yards. Devon Cooley had one reception for 21 yards.
“We forced turnovers, we blocked punts, we sacked him four times,” Hill said. “So there was a lot of good there, but not enough for what you have to do to win against — this is a good Mountain West team, they won eight games last year ... beat Purdue in Week 1. We did not do what we needed to do tonight.
“I don’t know if we’re going to play anybody better than San Diego State or Nevada the rest of the way, so I’ve got to give those two teams props, and Nevada did what they had to do to win today. They had way more plays than we did, we didn’t get out of drives when we should have before they flipped field position. Offensively, we’ve got a long ways to go.”
Weber State now enters its lone bye week before hosting No. 11 Northern Iowa on Sept. 28 for its final non-conference game. Northern Iowa is 1-1 and was off Saturday, but plays Idaho State on Sept. 21 before traveling to Ogden.