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Shaheed makes history, leads Wildcats in win over Idaho State

Weber State beats Idaho State 40-17 on Oct. 30, 2021.

Weber State beats Idaho State 40-17 on Oct. 30, 2021. (Weber State Athletics)

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OGDEN — It's usually written in every opponents' game notes when playing Weber State to not kick off to the nation's leader in career kickoff returns Rashid Shaheed.

Most teams will clear the ball through the back of the end zone, kick short and give any other Wildcat on special teams an opportunity to return, or attempt a squib kick to give their team time to get down the field and stop the return.

After tying the record with Hampton's Jerome Mathis for career kickoff touchdown returns in the first game of the season against Utah at six, it was only a matter of time before Shaheed got another opportunity to return the ball and break the record to stand alone in the FCS history books for the most all-time kickoff return touchdowns.

Midway through the third quarter, Idaho State intercepted a pass from the 45-yard line and returned it back 55 yards into the end zone after what appeared to be miscommunication on the play call between Bronson Barron and Shaheed, who didn't even see the ball coming his direction while running straight down the sideline.

Barely up 20-17 and frustrated after the Bengals' defensive touchdown and the Wildcats offense not being able to fully capitalize on drives, Idaho State decided to play with fire: they kicked the ball right into Shaheed's hands.

Starting his run near the second right hash, Shaheed ran straight 15 yards before breaking left, where he ran up the sideline untouched for 98 yards into the end zone. With the return, Shaheed now stands alone at the top of the FCS history books with seven career returns.

"I couldn't be more happy for Rashid Shaheed," head coach Jay Hill said. "There's not many times you get to be the NCAA all-time leader in something."

The kickoff return was the highlight play and energy-booster Weber State needed to squash all hope from a lingering Idaho State team and give the Wildcats (4-4) a 40-17 win — their first back-to-back win of the season.

"The play of the game for (Idaho State) was the pick six, and then that's when we kinda stepped up and said, 'OK, we're not gonna let this be close;' and then I thought we played outstanding after that point," Hill said.

Shaheed led the Weber State offense with 88 yards on four receptions, including a 36-yard catch for Weber State's first touchdown of the afternoon. The 6-foot senior finished the game with 290 all-purpose yards and become just the fourth player in Weber State history to surpass the 5,000 mark for career all-purpose yards.

With Josh Davis sidelined with an injury, Kris Jackson continued to take on the rushing load for the Wildcats. After running for three touchdowns last week over the Wildcats' upset win against Eastern Washington, Jackson continued his impressive play and ran for two touchdowns.

The offense saw time split between quarterbacks, with Barron taking a majority of the snaps over Creyton Cooper. Barron was 14-of-24 passing for 204 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Cooper continued to make appearances periodically throughout the game and gave a challenging look to the defense on quick running plays.

Cooper completed his one pass of the game for 12 yards and led the Wildcats on the ground with 59 yards on 11 carries.

"I thought Creyton was huge today. People have asked me like, 'Why do you run that package with Creyton; why not just do it with another running back?'" Hill said. "Well, Creyton can throw it, and we've got to continue to find ways to bring him along. I think this is a great way to do it."

On the defensive side of the ball, Weber State gave up 98 yards for 10 points in the second quarter but remained completely dominant the rest of the game as they have done all season.

With starting quarterback Tyler Vander Waal having only played three games this season due to an injury, the Bengals saw action from two different quarterbacks. Hunter Hays was 10-of-15 passing for 121 yards and a touchdown, and Sagan Gronauer was 6-of-13 passing for 48 yards as the Bengals continued their offensive struggles.

The Bengals were forced to punt on their first four drives of the game and punted the ball eight times on their 11 possessions.

Idaho State finished the game with 193 yards to Weber State's 405. The Bengals were also held to just 24 rushing yards, while the Wildcats dominated that statistic, running for 189 yards.

The explanation point was put on the game late in the fourth quarter when Idaho State was forced to punt from their own end zone.

After being held to a three-and-out series and losing 20 yards on the possession, Naseme Colvin went right through the middle of the defensive line that was protecting the punter and stuffed the ball straight down into the end zone. Bouncing right with several people attempting to dive on the ball, Winston Reid came up with the recovery in the end zone for the last scoring play of the game with 4:47 left in the fourth quarter.

The Wildcats began their season playing then-No.24 Utah and four FCS teams who were all ranked 12th or better where they struggled in the close losses.

Saturday's game against Idaho State began the start of the fifth easiest remaining schedule in the country. The remaining games will be a home game against Portland State, an away contest against in-state foe Southern Utah, and the final game of the regular season being played at home against Northern Colorado.

Together, the last three opponents have a record of 7-18, and the Wildcats need to take advantage of the easy schedule to keep their playoff hopes alive.

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