OGDEN — It’s been said that it’s not how you start but how you finish; and for the Weber State Wildcats, they finished their game Saturday just how they wanted.
Big second half adjustments and a few key defensive plays helped edge the Wildcats past Kennesaw State in a come-from-behind 26-20 victory in the second round of the FCS playoffs.
“Second half adjustments I thought were huge, and really more than anything it was just the players had one half to see it,” said Weber State head coach Jay Hill. “I think they went in and just caught their breath and came out and played phenomenally in the second half.”
It was a back-and-forth battle all afternoon between the Wildcats and Owls at Stewart Stadium as Weber State trailed by five at the halftime break. But on the Owls' first possession of the second half, a miscue forced an Owls fumble that was scooped up and scored by Weber State's Adam Rodriguez.
“I think the biggest thing in this game and us taking the win is the defense making halftime adjustments,” Weber State quarterback Jake Constantine said. “I think they brought momentum to our whole team in the second half and that’s pretty much where we started taking advantage of everything they were doing, and everything seemed to be smooth.”
That momentum carried over into the rest of the game.
Devon Cooley and David Ames each had big catches to help set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Josh Davis to give the Wildcats a 26-17 lead over the Owls. Kennesaw State would only score three more point for the remainder of the game on a 37-yard field goal.
The Wildcats defense came up big throughout the remainder of the second half, including a stop after Weber State fumbled a snap and Trey Tuttle was forced to jump on the ball and give Kennesaw State great field position.
And again when Constantine threw his only interception of the game. The defense held firm and forced the Owls to punt it away. Even with two minutes left in the game, Rodriguez sacked Kennesaw State quarterback Jonathan Murphy on fourth down to seal the victory.
The Owls opened up the game by forcing a three-and-out series against the Wildcats and then marched down the field once for a 41-yard field goal by Nathan Robertson to take an early lead.
The Wildcats would answer back four minutes later when Tuttle hit a 24-yard field goal to tie the game up. But Kennesaw State would answer back on an 18-play, 92-yard drive that took nearly 10 minutes and was capped off by a quarter keeper by Murphy for a 2-yard rushing touchdown.
Constantine, though, would later find Cooley for a 21-yard touchdown pass, but the team failed to convert on a two-point try. Cooley finished the night with 144 receiving yards and one touchdown.
“He’s a confident player and he communicates with me the most on the field and just what’s going on, what he likes, what I like,” Constantine said about the relationship he’s building with Cooley. “Another player who has been stepping up is David Ames. Both those guys had over 100 yards receiving today. That’s an impressive stat for those guys.”
The Wildcats will play Montana on either Friday or Saturday next week at home. It’s a rematch the team has been looking forward to since they lost to the Grizzlies 35-16 earlier in the season.
“I shouldn’t have to say a word to them,” Hill said. “After how poorly we played up there a couple weeks ago. They got us on our heels a little bit and they played phenomenally that game. I should not have to say a word to this team this week. They know what’s a stake, they know what’s on the line. I shouldn’t have to say a thing.”