FOOTBALL: Grading the Idaho State Game
(Graphic courtesy of ESPN)
Weber State won its fourth consecutive conference championship on Saturday, after beating Idaho State by a score of 20-15. In doing so, the Wildcats won their first-ever outright conference title and are only the second team in Big Sky history to win four conference championships in a row. We’ve asked our panel to grade the offense, defense and special teams, as well as give a game ball for the historic win against the Bengals.
AC: The Wildcats outgained ISU on fewer plays, had their second best passing game of the season and rushed for over 100 yards. I’ll give them a B for the game, and had it not been for a couple of fumbles, that grade would likely have been quite a bit higher. I absolutely love the wide receiver and running back groups on this team - lots of weapons all over the field. I’m really looking forward to seeing what this squad can do in the playoffs.
Sean Lewis: A. Sure, the offense has struggled more than everyone would prefer. But the bottom line is that the offense does just enough each week to get the W. They may be ugly Ws, but a W is still a W. No criticisms here today. Congrats on a fourth straight conference title, fellas!
Joe Traub: B. The turnovers early in the game were frustrating, but the fact is that they moved the ball. Bronson Barron and Justin Malone were able to connect on a long pass and deliver a clutch scoring play in the second half. Adjusting on the fly like this is critical, come playoff time. Also, shoutout to Daniel Wright’s athleticism to somehow hit the pylon and put the ‘Cats in front with two minutes left.
Colby Peterson: B-. Offense has seemed to take strides in the last few weeks, indicating that guys are getting comfortable in Coach Matt Hammer’s offensive schemes. The Wildcats put up 387 yards, with Barron passing for 258 yards. The run game continued to move the chains with their next-man-up mentality. Dontae McMillan rushed for 90 yards in the absence of All-Big Sky RB Josh Davis and got some key first downs. But the glaring issue that has kept my grade out of the A-range this week are the two turnovers, both fumbles. The Wildcats will have to clean up those offensive mistakes. It’s crunch time now.
AC: Is Jay Hill still coaching the team? Did they win? Then this defense is going to get a high grade. The defense held another opponent under 50 percent passing completions, racked up three sacks, a pick and was hitting hard all game. Wildcat fans have been spoiled with All-American talent all over the defense for the better part of a decade, and this spring season is no different. These guys are studs, and they’ll be graded as such. They’ll get an A from me.
Sean: A. Again, I could find faults about how it feels that the D has to spend too much time on the field, but the time of possession numbers were essentially equal yesterday (the Bengals did run 11 more plays than the Wildcats did). I could complain about how the D went all “Get Smart” and missed several potential turnovers by this much, but again, this defense is robust and does just what they need to to get the W. Congrats on an undefeated regular season!
Joe: A-. Great job defending against a vicious passing attack by Tyler Vander Waal, who somehow was able to come back into that game. Incredible. But the Wildcats did their thing by limiting damage and coming up with a late game play that we have come accustomed to seeing - this time, a clinching pick by Marque Collins.
Colby: A-. The defense played phenomenally again on Saturday, holding the second-best passer in the Big Sky, Vander Waal, below his average of 315 yards and allowing him just 268. The Wildcats also did a number on ISU RB Malakai Rango, giving up just 56 yards. Also, kudos are in order, because they really answered the bell when it mattered, like holding ISU to a field goal on a 21-yard field after the Randall Johnson fumble and the game-ending interception by Collins. My only complaint is that pressure on Vander Waal didn’t result in more sacks. There were a number of times that Vander Waal was hurried by the defensive line but was able to scramble away for a short pickup. He should have been brought down in the pocket.
AC: A lot of good and little bad earns the special teams an A-. A missed field goal could have potentially hurt the ‘Cats, but they blocked a kick so it cancels out. Mackenzie Morgan had far and away his best day of the season and was blasting punts all afternoon, including a 65-yard atom bomb. Rashid Shaheed had a really good punt return and coverage teams on kicks and punts were tremendous.
Sean: A. Blocked a FG, then missed a FG. It all balances out in the end. Besides, it’s not Shaheed's fault that the officials apparently do not understand the concept of a fair catch. Keep up the winning ways in the playoffs!
Joe: B+. It was a bummer about the missed field goal, but you almost must give credit to the coaching of Rob Phenicie and his presence of mind to ice Kyle Thompson. Mackenzie Morgan continued his string of excellent punting and Shaheed seemingly helped put his team in better field position every time with his outstanding return abilities.
Colby: A-. Special Teams really played well in this one, including a blocked FG and a number of perfect punts from Morgan. My one knock is missing a field goal after getting iced at the end of the first half. The kick was into the wind, but it was a chip shot. There should have been no doubt, in spite of the ISU timeout.
AC: In the postgame show, I gave my game ball to Barron, who, in my opinion, had a better and more efficient game than his counterpart and had one of his better outings of the season. In this write up, however, I’m going to give the game ball to Collins. ISU had a bit of momentum and was looking to score and win the game on their final drive, but Collins showed off some toe-drag swag on a pass near the sideline and got the conference championship sealing interception. Big-time players make big-time plays, and Collins made a huge play to clinch the historic win for Weber State.
Sean: Conner Mortensen. The Senior LB led the Wildcats with 11 total tackles, nine of them individual, and seemed to be involved in more plays than that. He was a stud of a defender yesterday.
Joe: Agreeing with Sean here and going with Mortensen. He is extremely underrated and hopefully the league takes notice soon. “The Captain” comes to play each and every week, and continues to get better and better at quarterback hurries, as we saw him do multiple times to Vander Waal.
Colby: Dontae McMillan. When the Wildcats needed to move the chains, McMillan was there to carry the load. He really stepped up in the clutch, especially with the Wildcat being down three key RBs this season.
Chappy: That’s all that matters.