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Late 4th quarter drive haunts Wildcats in 17-14 loss against No. 10 UC Davis

Weber State hosts UC Davis in a Big Sky Conference opener on Sept. 25, 2021

Weber State hosts UC Davis in a Big Sky Conference opener on Sept. 25, 2021 (Weber State Athletics)

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OGDEN — Another week and another ranked matchup at Stewart Stadium — this time against No. 10 UC Davis, who Weber State had beaten in the last five matchups.

The Aggies (4-0, 1-0 Big Sky) came into the game riding a three game wining streak and carried every ounce of grit they found in the early season into Ogden and snapped their losing skid against Weber State (1-3, 0-1 Big Sky) in a low scoring 17-14 win Saturday night.

Entering the game, the Wildcats had won 15 straight home games against Big Sky opponents, a record which dated back to October 2017. But because of several turnovers and crucial penalties, the streak has come to an end.

"Obviously, it's disappointing for sure. We work really hard getting schemes down, study film, kinda learn what to expect; and I definitely think we need to do better," Weber State defensive end Jared Schiess said. "There's little, just little things that we need to figure out and capitalize on and make it so it's about us and our team and not what other things may have happened."

The list of "little things" that need to be fixed during this coming week may actually not be so little.

Weber State head coach Jay Hill said several "little things" that he sees that his team need to fix: better practices in the middle of the week, making plays when they are there, capitalizing on drives when in scoring position, finding ways out of defensive drives, and getting better in the turnover margin.

Prior to Saturday's game, the Aggies led the FCS with a plus-eight turnover margin, including eight interceptions and a fumble recovery. Against Weber, they added to the margin and intercepted two of Kylan Weisser's passes and forced him to fumble midway through the first quarter.

While Bronson Barron remained out as he recovered from an MCL injury, Weisser earned his first start. He finished the night with 225 yards and a touchdown on 19-of-32 passing, and added 52 net yards on the ground from 11 carries. The turnovers, however, were too crucial and changed the outcome of the game.

Midway through the second quarter, the Wildcats received the ball on their own 1-yard line and were in an imperfect position with limited breathing room to do anything. On the first play of the drive, the Wildcats lined up in shotgun formation and looked for a quick pass to advance the ball downfield.

On the snap, Aggies defensive lineman Bryce Rodgers broke through the protection and got to Weisser, who barely got the ball out of his hands before he was brought down in the end zone, but the ball landed in the hands of defensive back Jordan Perryman.

The Aggies started with the ball on Weber States' 26-yard line, and in just four plays Ulonzo Gilliam Jr. ran the ball 1 yard into the end zone to even the score 7-7.

"It was a blitz, and it was one of those little things that we need to focus on," Weisser said about his interception. "I should have thrown the ball out of bounds, but instead I tried to get it out."

Though Weber State struggled on offense to get points on the board, the defense remained — almost — constant throughout the game. But in a contest that is as close as it was, almost is not good enough.

In the first half, the Wildcats held the Aggies to just 113 total yards — 55 rushing and 58 passing — and allowed only five first downs and to 2 of 7 on third down conversions. But midway through the fourth quarter, when UC Davis quarterback Hunter Rodrigues went out with an injury, the look of a scrappy defensive team changed.

Rodrigues finished the game just 11-of-26 passing for 99 yards and 46 yards rushing.

The Aggies started their final drive on their own 44-yard line with 6:43 left in the game and used up almost every second of the time en route to a last second touchdown. During the final drive, backup quarterback Miles Hastings threw 7-of-9 for 50 yards and set up his team for a short 1-yard touchdown run after a controversial pass interference penalty called on Weber States' Eddie Heckard.

All that was left was for Trent Tompkins to run the ball 1 yard for a touchdown and to give the Aggies their first lead of the game with only 27 seconds left in regulation.

The short clock did not grant Weber State, who had no timeouts remaining, enough time to get in a scoring position. On the final drive for the Wildcats, Weisser was picked off, ending any chance at a comeback for the home team.

"You've got to give that No. 7 (Hastings) credit, he came in and threw some really good balls," Hill said. "The mindset on defense's got to change a little bit in that moment where he wasn't quite the runner that Rodrigues was; and we've got to do a little better job of getting out of those drives with some different looks on defense.

"He came in and went what, like seven of eight or something like that, seven of nine. That can't happen with a backup quarterback, hitting us on that kind of production. That was only for 50 yards, but that's too much."

Weber State will travel to Cal Poly (1-3, 0-1 Big Sky) Saturday for the Wildcats' first game outside of Utah this season. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. MT on ESPN+.

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