Jeffrey D. Allred, KSL

Weber State beats Montana 17-10 to earn first-ever trip to the FCS semifinal in school history

By Carra McManamon, | Updated - Dec. 14, 2019 at 1:31 a.m. | Posted - Dec. 14, 2019 at 1:01 a.m.

OGDEN — The vibe floating around the Weber State locker room at halftime was down but not out.

Adam Rodriguez finished the game with a school record four sacks and the defense had five interceptions to come from behind and beat the visiting Montana Grizzlies 17-10 to advance to the school's first-ever trip to the FCS semifinals.

“We’re down, but we’re not out”, Rodriguez said. “It’s not like the Montana game prior. We’re in this game and anything can change. He (George Tarlas) got his pick in the second half, two picks; that changed the momentum. You just gotta keep going with that.”

Montana was the first to score in the game when quarterback Dalton Sneed found Colin Bingham for a 1-yard passing touchdown in the second quarter. The Wildcats could only manage a 41-yard field goal by Trey Tuttle in the first half.

The Wildcats only had 30 yards of total offense going into the halftime break and failed to convert a first down on eight third-down attempts. The Grizzlies, however, had 10 first downs and 170 total yards of offense in the snowy Friday night conditions.

But the Wildcats came out of the break and took their first lead of the game when quarterback Jake Constantine found Josh Davis for an 11-yard passing touchdown in the third quarter.

“Josh is the energizer bunny,” Rodriguez said. “That dude just goes and goes and goes. You give him the ball and he can find any little space and he’ll take it. It’s fun watching that little dude, and he is a little dude and he will bring it to you. It’s fun to watch him play, he energizes the whole team.”

That energy Davis provided before leaving the game with an injury was just what the Wildcats needed to fend off the Grizzlies. Rodriguez recorded four sacks in the second half and the team had three second-half interceptions (five total in the game) to highlight their tough defensive play.

“I thought the defense played outstanding to have a combination of five interceptions and six sacks,” said Wildcats head coach Jay Hill after his team's win. “To get 11 in that category is huge, probably the stat of the game.”

Despite the multitude of turnovers the defense forced, Weber State didn't have any turnovers of their own.

“The offense did a phenomenal job under those conditions of not turning the ball over,” Hill said. “I thought that was a key stat in this game. To go plus five, usually you win by a little bit more than we did, but them not turning the ball over was big.”

Weber State Wildcats defensive end George Tarlas (44) celebrates his interception at the end of the game with Weber State Wildcats linebacker Auston Tesch (53) during the FCS quarterfinals at Stewart Stadium in Ogden on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. Weber won 17-10. (Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, KSL)

Freshman Ja’Kobe Harris came up with a big play for the Wildcats in the fourth quarter when he blocked a punt by Montana's Adam Wilson and fell on it in the end zone to score for the Wildcats and give Weber State a two-score lead.

Montana would attempt a comeback late in the fourth quarter when Brandon Purdy kicked a 27-yard field goal to bring the Grizzlies within seven with 03:23 left in the game and then held the Wildcats to a quick three-and-out series.

But with just over two minutes left in the game, Sneed threw his fifth interception of the game to Tarlas, who finished the night with two interceptions, to seal the victory for the Wildcats.

“I’m grateful, really,” Tarlas said. “I don’t know how I ended up there. I was just doing my job and I was just trying to hide from the quarterback and show up at the end and get the pick. It was amazing; it felt really good.”

The Wildcats advance to the semifinal round of the FCS playoffs and will play James Madison Sat., Dec. 21 in Virginia. The game time has not yet been announced.

Carra McManamon

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