Location doesn’t matter when winning is involved

After the Southern Utah football team was dominated by Big Sky co-champion Weber State in its first December playoff home game in school history 11 days ago, it was striking to see some of the reaction among media types.


The recurring theme was that the Big Sky wasn’t getting a fair shake when the FCS playoff bracket was made.


For a few moments, the argument seemed plausible. Not only did Weber State have to play on opening weekend, but when the Wildcats came to Cedar City to face the T-Birds, the reward for the winner – if you want to call it that – was to face the defending national champion on their turf six days later.


Weber State earned the honor and had the James Madison Dukes on the ropes. Nearly dead to rights, even.


Traveling 2,000 miles and two time zones away? Didn’t matter. Facing a team looking to extend a 24-game winning streak? They live for the challenge, and Wildcats head coach Jay Hill said as much in his postgame comments after beating the T-Birds.


For those who didn’t see the game Friday night on ESPN2, you missed one whale of a battle. Weber State’s defense kept them in the game long enough for quarterback Stefan Cantwell to find Kevin Smith for an 81-yard touchdown pass. Midway through the third quarter, the Wildcats were in front, 14-10.


The drama was just getting started. After two more lead changes, Dixie High grad Drew Batchelor came through with an epic catch of a 36-yard Cantwell pass for a fourth-quarter touchdown with two Dukes defenders draped all over him.


With 3 minutes, 14 seconds left, Weber State led James Madison 28-20. The home team needed a touchdown and two-point conversion just to tie.


Like any great team, the Dukes did exactly that in less than a minute.


But when Weber State couldn’t come up with a first down, it was the window of opportunity that allowed James Madison to avoid overtime and preserve its winning streak. On the game’s final play, redshirt freshman Ethan Ratke snuck a 46-yard field goal just inside the right upright to give the Dukes a 31-28 victory and a semifinal matchup with South Dakota State on Saturday afternoon.


Even in the loss, it was an incredible effort by the Wildcats that proved the words of new Arizona State football coach Herm Edwards more impactful than ever.


You play to win the game. Location doesn’t matter.


-Through four rounds of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, CoBurn Bradshaw is the Wright family member with the best shot at a gold buckle, but the youngest one of the family is starting to make some noise of his own.


Ryder Wright became the fourth different cowboy to win a saddle bronc round at the Thomas & Mack Center on Sunday night, scoring 89 points aboard Pony Man to collect the $26,230 paycheck for first place. The 19-year-old from Milford moved up another spot to fourth in the money at $171,976 as the 10-day rodeo neared the halfway point.


As the week unfolds, watch to see if the cowboys continue to score on their rides. Although CoBurn Bradshaw didn’t cash for the first time Sunday night, he still rode Second Thoughts to a score of 77 points. The Beaver resident maintained his hold on second place in the money and has a seven-point lead over Brody Cress in the average.


If he can keep up the pace when all is said and done Saturday night, Bradshaw will collect an extra $67,269 for winning the average, which could easily give him a gold buckle for the first time.


Check online at ironcountytoday.com for updates after each round finishes, and look for a full story from the event in the Dec. 20 print edition.


Follow Tom Zulewski on Twitter @TommyZee81 or email tominator19@yahoo.com.


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