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OGDEN — It's usually more common for a team to have better luck winning games at home than on the road; but that has been far from the truth for Weber State football this year.
While the Wildcats are a perfect 4-0 on the road against FCS opponents this season, they've struggled to find a way to get a win on their home turf this year. The difficulties in finding a win continued when Weber State fell 30-18 to Portland State in Ogden Saturday afternoon, landing the Wildcats 0-4 at home on the season.
The run game with quarterback Creyton Cooper was the only run game proven to be successful in the Wildcats' stagnant offense.
Cooper ran for a 51-yard touchdown in the first quarter, putting the first points on the board by either team. Midway through the fourth quarter, Cooper, again, found the end zone on a 2-yard run. He finished the game running for 77 yards on seven carries and scored the only two Weber State touchdowns in the game.
Bronson Barron finished the game throwing for 187 yards on 20-of-33 passing, finding 10 receivers in total. Rashid Shaheed led all receivers with 90 yards, followed by Damon Bankson, who added 53 yards.
In the Wildcats' win over Eastern Washington, the four running backs of Kris Jackson, Dontae McMillan, Damon Bankston and Dave Jones ran for 222 yards on 37 carries. Against Idaho State, they ran for 126 yards on 32 carries. But against Portland State, they ran for a total of 4 net yards on eight carries.
"We've faced two fronts the last two weeks that don't make it hard to run the ball, but we've got to do a better job of running against those fronts," head coach Jay Hill said. "We should give the running backs the ball more; we need more productivity out of them when we do give it to them."
In total, the Wildcats had 256 yards on offense — 187 passing and 69 rushing — compared to the Vikings' 428 yards.
Entering the game, Weber State led the Big Sky in opponent third down conversion percentage at 27.1% and were ranked second in passing defense, giving up 165.4 yards per game.
As good as they have been all season at holding their opponents on third downs and defending opponents' receivers, Portland State, through Davis Alexander's mobility and ability to find open receivers, were 8-of-15 on third downs, 1-of-1 on fourth downs and had 299 passing yards.
"We just didn't execute. I feel like we had a good game plan in place and … what we've been doing all year — stopping third downs," senior safety Preston Smith said. "That's what we've been working on since last year; it's really our downfall in the spring. Credit to them, they were finding holes and sitting down in zones, and we knew they were gonna — we just didn't execute the way we usually do."
Portland State was led by senior quarterback Alexander, who finished the game 29-of-42 passing for 299 yards and a passing and rushing touchdown. Nate Bennett led the Viking receivers with 83 yards on nine catches and was followed by Darien Chase, who had added 79 yards and a touchdown. Mataio Talalemotu added 69 yards, including a 50-yard catch that set up a touchdown to open the second half.
The Wildcats' defensive line was able to escape past the protection around Alexander, but each time he managed to find an open receiver or a gap to run and came up with big play after big play.
"I said it all week: I thought the Alexander kid is tough. In my opinion, he's the best quarterback in the league and he played like it today," Hill said. "He was poised, knew when to throw it and get it out of his hand quick. He knew when to scramble and buy time and make a play; I thought he played very good."
After Cooper's opening touchdown run in the first quarter, the Vikings scored 17 unanswered points. It wasn't until late in the third quarter with 2:35 remaining that Kyle Thompson ended the scoring drought with a long 45-yard field goal.
While the offense had troubles moving the ball down the field in the right direction, the defense had equally the same troubles containing the electric passing offense of Portland State that averages 284.3 yards per game. The Vikings took advantage of their successes and possessed the ball for 10:30 longer than the Wildcats.
"Our defense is built not to let teams dink and dunk; and they just dink and dunk all the way down the field, 90 yards, a couple times, and they cannot do that," Smith said.
With only two games remaining in the season, the chances of Weber State making the playoffs are unlikely; but Hill believes they have an opportunity to close the season out with some pride by winning the rivalry game against Southern Utah next weekend.
"That's all that matters is that we rebound; and we got an opportunity to fight through some adversity and some toughness. Life will throw you some curveballs and it has right now."