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OGDEN — Playing with their backs against the wall and having struggled against ranked opponents this season, Weber State knew a win was necessary to keep playoff hopes alive. And a win wasn't going to come easy in Cheney, Washington, against a No. 2 ranked Eastern Washington.
Up by two touchdowns with 8:42 left in the game, the Eagles made things interesting and scored on their next two possessions — the second was converted after Kris Jackson fumbled the ball and the ball was recovered on the Wildcats' 39-yard line.
But after the Eagles scored their second touchdown, they tried to determine whether to go for a 2-point conversion to possibly win the game or tie; they elected to go for the tie.
With a tremendous amount of pressure on the extra point, Seth Harrison — who was 4-for-4 on PATs in the game prior to this moment — shanked the field goal left, which gave the Wildcats the ball up one with 2:51 remaining in the game.
After a 32-yard run by Dave Jones on third-and-8, the Wildcats went into victory formation and sealed a 35-34 win, breaking the Eagles' 20-game home-winning streak on their red turf.
The Weber State offense that averaged only 139.8 rushing yards per game, came alive after struggling for weeks to find any rhythm and found answers by giving the ball to Jackson.
The 5-foot-10, 245 pound running back led the rushing game with 93 yards on 19 carries and three touchdowns. Dave Jones added 69 yards on nine carries, and Dontae McMillan rushed for 49 yards on seven carries, including one touchdown.
Weber State head coach Jay Hill said two things made the difference in a close games his team was losing: looking for and hitting Rashid Shaheed more often and winning the turnover battle.
Shaheed led the Wildcat receivers with six catches for 109 yards, including a 44-yard reception down to the 1-yard line that set up Jackson for his first touchdown of the game early in the second quarter. Ty MacPherson added 67 yards on five catches, including a 41-yard reception that set up Kyle Thompson for a field goal to end the first half.
Coming into the game, Weber State was a minus-six in the turnover margin and had forced only five fumbles through the first six games.
If there was one message that was conveyed to the Weber State defense in preparation for Eastern Washington, it was that they were going to win the turnover margin against a team who was plus-seven in that category.
Out of the gates, the Wildcats were noticeably not contempt with just bringing down the Eagles; they were trying to strip away the ball and force Eastern Washington into fumbles, which they successfully did. In the first quarter, alone, the Weber State defense forced Eastern Washington into five fumbles — recovering two of them — and forced six throughout the entire 60 minutes of action.
Eddie Heckard, who had five solo tackles and seven total in the game, also came up with an interception on the Eagles' first possession of the fourth quarter that led to Jackson scoring his final touchdown of the night.
Although the Wildcats won the turnover battle, they struggled as well and put the on ball on the turf four times and lost two of them, which resulted in 13 points for the Eagles. But off of the Eagles' turnovers, the Wildcats were able to score 15 points.
If five forced fumbles in one quarter wasn't wild enough, the game also saw three quarterbacks in action for Weber State on the same drive; and not one, not two, but three successful fake punts.
Bronson Barron led the quarterbacks with 226 yards on 21-of-34 passing; Randall Johnson tallied 23 passing yards on 4-of-6 passing, and added 18 yards on the ground; Creyton Cooper only took a handful of snaps and had 5 rushing yards, but none were more important than his 2 yards gained on a third-and-1 that saved the drive that ended in a score.
And all three of Weber States' successful fake punts resulted in a scoring drive: a fourth-and-2 where Mitchel Maxfield ran for 7 yards to set up Thompson for a 31-yard field goal; a fourth-and-3 that Mackenize Morgan kept off the snap and ran for 10 yards that led to another Thompson field goal; and a fourth-and-4 where Morgan found Jared Schiess for a 20-yard gain that ended in a Jackson touchdown run.
In a game where the offense looked to have found some momentum, the game's credit could go to the defense after holding the No. 1 rated offense in the country to only 34 points — 21 points short of their average of 54 on the season.
Preston Smith led the defense with 10 tackles, including five solo, and Desmond Williams followed behind with eight tackles.
The Eagles averaged 628.1 yards per game — 170.9 rushing and 457.3 passing — and were held to just 434 total net yards. They found some rhythm in the running game, rushing for 189 yards, but were held to 245 passing yards.
After a back-and-forth game where the Wildcats had 95 offensive plays and controlled the possession time 35:20 to 24:40, it was only fitting that Weber State would be the team to snap Eastern Washington's home record. On Nov. 4, 2017, the Eagles lost their last home game, falling to — you guessed it — Weber State.
McCaffrey, no-break defense leads Northern Colorado by SUU
CEDAR CITY — Dylan McCaffrey threw for one touchdown and ran for another and Northern Colorado defeated Southern Utah 17-9 on Saturday night.
McCaffrey, the former Michigan quarterback now playing for his dad, had modest passing numbers — 11 of 23 for 74 yards — but rushed for 100 yards on 14 carries. Tru Wilson added 85 yards rushing and the Bears finished with 251 yards on the ground.
The Bears (3-5, 2-3 Big Sky Conference), who had allowed an average of 45 points in their past three games, didn't allow a touchdown and twice forced field goals when the Thunderbirds (1-7, 0-5) reached the red zone.
Northern Colorado led 10-6 early in the fourth quarter before an 18-play, 90-yard drive ended with a 1-yard run by McCaffrey to give the Bears an 11--point lead.
Southern Utah added a field goal on its next possession then forced a punt, but the Thunderbirds' final drive ended on downs near midfield.
SUU's Justin Miller completed 29 of 50 passes for 307 yards.
— The Associated Press
Self, Gipson lead Stephen F. Austin over Dixie State
ST. GEORGE — Trae Self threw three touchdown passes and Stephen F. Austin rolled to an 37-20 victory over winless Dixie State on Saturday night.
Self completed 20 of 30 passes for 326 yards and connected with Xavier Gipson for two touchdowns and Chad Aune for one. Gipson finished with eight receptions for 208 yards.
Self's 60-yard TD pass to Gipson stretched the Lumberjacks' lead to 27-10 midway through the third quarter.
Miles Reed added 103 yards rushing on 19 carries and a 1-yard touchdown run for Stephen F. Austin (4-3, 1-2 ASUN-Western Athletic Conference).
Drew Kannely-Robles carried the ball 24 times for 183 yards that included a 47-yard touchdown for Dixie State (0-7, 0-1). Kobe Tracy was 22-of-38 passing for 243 yards with a touchdown and interception.
— The Associated Press