Wildcats seek first victory over ranked opponent as No. 9 Montana State comes to town

Weber State competes against Cal Poly in an FCS football game, Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021 in San Luis Obispo, Calif.

Weber State competes against Cal Poly in an FCS football game, Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021 in San Luis Obispo, Calif. (Robert Casey, Weber State Athletics)


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Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Coming off a much-needed victory against Cal Poly and a bye week, the Weber State Wildcats welcome yet another Top 10 opponent to Ogden as they face No. 8 Montana State.

While it has been somewhat of an underwhelming season to this point, the Wildcats will be looking to even up their record at 3-3 and defeat their first ranked opponent of the 2021 campaign.

Scouting the Wildcats

Ranking: No. 16 in the Power Poll Ranking

Record: (2-3, 1-1 Big Sky)

Last Week: W vs Cal Poly, 38-7

After dropping back-to-back games to ranked opponents, Weber State finally bounced back with a statement victory over Cal Poly as they defeated the Mustangs 38-7. Simply put, it was a well balanced effort as the defense held its ground and the offense split the yards evenly between the run and passing games.

Backup quarterback Kylan Weisser had arguably his best performance in a Wildcats uniform as the sophomore from Arizona went 11-of-16 for 143 yards and a career-high two touchdowns. He also demonstrated versatility as he found the end zone twice with his legs. Weisser, however, suffered a broken fibula late in the third quarter and was forced to leave the game. He'll be sidelined for four to six weeks.

Before leaving the contest, the ball was widely distributed by Weisser with 12 receivers bringing in receptions. To no surprise, Rashid Shaheed led the room with one reception for 50 yards.

In regards to the run game, it was a group effort with multiple backs taking reps, resulting in 176 yards on 50 carries (3.5 average). Notably, Josh Davis led the room with 50 yards on 11 carries (4.5 average) and a game long of 14 yards.

Defensively, the Wildcats were suffocating as they held the Mustangs to only 115 total yards on 67 plays (1.7 average). They also forced two fumbles, one of which was taken back to the house for a score. Linebacker Conner Mortensen led the team with six total tackles, five of which were solo.

Hear it from head coach Jay Hill

"They're really good on both sides of the ball," head coach Jay Hill said. "Right now they're, I believe, second in the league in total offense, they're first in the league in pass efficiency, they're No. 1 in pass efficiency defense, they run the ball the most in the league, and they're good at stopping the run. So, bottom line, this is a real team coming in here — we've gotta play great.

"It's no different than we expect to have to play when we are playing the upper echelon of this conference. You have to play great to win."

Wildcats to Watch

Bronson Barron and the wide receivers

Bronson Barron should return to the lineup this week, and he'll need to shake off the rust quickly as he looks to rediscover his rhythm against Montana State. While the Bobcats defense has only given up 67 total points through six games, the passing attack has to be somewhat of a negative as they've allowed 917 yards and five touchdowns. If Weber State wants any shot at an upset, they should undoubtedly try to attack through the air.

The defensive line

As for Montana State's offense, they, too, have produced fairly evenly between their passing and running attacks up to this point in the season. In response, the Wildcats defensive line will need to step up and create havoc and make sure to close off any potential running lanes as it applies pressure on the quarterback when he drops back to pass. If they can effectively shut down one of those attacks, Weber will have a real shot at winning as the Bobcats will struggle to adjust.

Scouting the Bobcats

Ranking: No. 8 in the Power Poll Ranking

Record: (5-1, 3-0 Big Sky)

Last Week: W vs Cal Poly, 45-7

Montana State is on fire as the Bobcats have orchestrated five-straight wins after their initial loss to Wyoming in the season opener. With all their recent success, including a 45-7 blowout over Cal Poly, the Bobcats currently find themselves 3-0 in the Big Sky and second in the conference behind Eastern Washington.

Quarterback Matthew McKay put on a solid performance against the Mustangs, finishing 14-of-18 for 163 yards and two touchdowns. While the ball was well distributed, Lance McCutcheon was the favorite target as he finished with 57 yards on three receptions.

As for the run game, moving the ball on the ground was the primary focus as the Bobcats finished with 266 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Notably, Isaiah Ifanse led the room with 13 carries for 59 yards and two touchdowns.

Defensively, the Bobcats stepped up when it mattered most, holding Cal Poly to only two red zone trips and 5-of-14 on third downs. Overall, defensive back Tre Webb led the team with seven total tackles, three of which were solo.

Bobcats to Watch

Matthew Mckay

While the offense has evenly distributed the production between the pass and the run, McKay has been a flamethrower through six games. Up to this point, McKay has recorded 1,344 yards and 12 touchdowns on roughly a 68% completion rate.

Isaiah Ifanse

He has been the primary rusher for Montana State, taking 108 carries for 661 yards and six touchdowns. With a 6.1 yard average per carry, the Weber State defense will have to win the battle at the line of scrimmage in order to contain him.

How to Watch

This week's game will be broadcast on ESPNU and available to stream via ESPN+ and the ESPN app, with kickoff set on Friday for 8 p.m. MT. Fans can also listen to 103.1 "The Wave" with Tony Parks and Jerry Graybeal on the call.

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