Wildcats shut down T-Birds in FCS playoffs


By Tom Zulewski

Iron County Today

CEDAR CITY–In one of its best seasons in school history, the Southern Utah football team was more than ready for its first home playoff game. A record-setting crowd showed up at Eccles Coliseum, but the T-Birds didn’t have an answer for the defense of its in-state rival.

Quarterback Stefan Cantwell threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score, and the Weber State defense delivered six sacks as the Big Sky co-champions routed Southern Utah 30-13 on Dec. 2 in front of 11,811 fans.

In search of its first FCS playoff win, things started in promising fashion for the T-Birds (9-3). They scored on their first two possessions with a Jay Green 16-yard run on fourth-and-2 and a 37-yard field goal from Manny Berz that staked the home team to a 10-0 lead after a quarter.

From that point, SUU managed only 73 yards despite forcing three turnovers from Weber State (11-2) and enjoying Thanksgiving week off. The Wildcats handed SUU only its second home loss in the last 16 games.

“Weber State beat us thoroughly – offense, defense and special teams,” SUU head coach Demario Warren said. “We worried about starting fast and staying sharp after the bye, and could we keep up the stamina and urgency.”

Once Weber State got rolling, they would prove to be too tough to stop.

The Wildcats got on the board with 8 minutes, 53 seconds left in the second quarter when Dixie High grad Drew Batchelor caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from Cantwell. After a three-and-out from the T-Birds, Weber State got a pair of field goals from Trey Tuttle (38, 19 yards) to take the lead for the first time with 1:56 left in the half.

Things nearly came unraveled for the Wildcats following the kickoff when Cantwell threw an interception to SUU senior Chance Bearnson, who returned the ball 24 yards to the WSU 13. After two incompletions, the T-Birds could only get a 24-yard field goal from Berz with 8 seconds left, and the teams went to the locker room tied at 13-13.

“We were down after giving them three extra points,” Weber State head coach Jay Hill said. “You want to go in (to halftime) on a high note, but they rebounded and matured. They had the look in their eyes that said, ‘Coach, don’t worry about it. We’ve got this.’ They game out and played great in the second half.”

Weber State scored on its first two drives of the third quarter and effectively put all the momentum on their side of the field. Cantwell scored on a 5-yard run on the opening possession, then threw a 10-yard touchdown to Andrew Vollert to put the Wildcats up 27-13.

Tuttle’s third field goal, a 24-yarder with 8:16 left in the game, finished off the scoring. SUU failed to cross midfield in the entire second half and finished with 219 total yards of offense.

Weber State advances to face defending FCS national champion James Madison in the quarterfinals Friday night. The Dukes won their 24th straight game earlier in the day, beating Stony Brook, 26-7.

 

WEBER STATE 30, SOUTHERN UTAH 13

Weber State     0   13   14    3   —   30

Southern Utah   10   3   0   0   —   13

 

First quarter

 

SUU – Green 16 run (Berz kick), 10:34

SUU – FG Berz 37, 2:18

 

Second quarter

WSU – Batchelor 20 pass from Cantwell (Tuttle kick), 8:53

WSU – FG Tuttle 38, 5:44

WSU – FG Tuttle 19, 1:56

SUU – FG Berz 24, :08

 

Third quarter

WSU – Cantwell 5 run (Tuttle kick), 11:54

WSU – Vollert 10 pass from Cantwell (Tuttle kick), 6:55

 

Fourth quarter

WSU – FG Tuttle 24, 8:16

 

INDIVIDUAL LEADERS

RUSHING: Weber State – Cantwell 18-105; Smith 16-62; Garrett 1-3, Batchelor 1-1; Bos 1-minus-16. Southern Utah – Green 13-55; Tyler 15-28; Beasley 2-4; Diego-Williams 2-3; Parker 1-0.

 

PASSING: Weber State – Cantwell 21-33-1-299. Southern Utah – Tyler 16-31-0-129; Rutledge 0-1-0-0

 

RECEIVING: Weber State – Batchelor 6-98; Smith 6-81; Vollert 4-57; Satuala 2-50; MacPherson 2-4; Shaheed 1-9. Southern Utah – Croyle 4-32; Measom 3-12; Parker 2-41; Green 2-31; Rutledge 1-6; Pedersen 1-6; Cockett 1-6; Colson 1-minus-2; Chambers 1-minus-3.

 

 

FCS Playoffs

Saturday, Dec. 2

Second Round

Weber State 30, Southern Utah 13

James Madison 26, Stony Brook 7

Kennesaw State 17, Jacksonville State 7

Sam Houston State 54, South Dakota 42

South Dakota State 37, Northern Iowa 22

New Hampshire 21, Central Arkansas 15

Wofford 28, Furman 10

North Dakota State 38, San Diego 3

 

Quarterfinals

Friday’s Game

Weber State (11-2) at James Madison (12-0), 5 p.m., ESPN2

Saturday’s Games

Wofford (10-2) at North Dakota State (11-1), 10 a.m., ESPN2

New Hampshire (9-4) at South Dakota State (10-2), 1 p.m., ESPN3

Kennesaw State (12-1) at Sam Houston State (11-1), 6:30 p.m., ESPN3

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