GAME DAY GRADES: Weber State @ Montana State
Photo Credit: Robert Casey, Weber State Athletics
It was a wild and weird one up in Bozeman on Saturday, with the Wildcats setting the kind of record you DON'T want and coming home with their first loss of the season in a top five FCS matchup. But, there were also positives to take away from Weber State's toughest opponent to date and the experience didn't hurt the Wildcats in the national polls, overall. Our panel shares their thoughts on the good, bad, and ugly.
To start, let me channel my inner Dennis Green: "They are who we thought they were, and we let them off the hook."
They performed, they were good at times. But jeez louise… Catch the ball. There were multiple big drops. If Jacob Sharp catches the ball then we are up 31-9 and the second safety doesn’t happen. If T-Mac catches the 4th down ball… the what if’s will continue on for a long time.
Look… they had good moments and they had bad moments, but they weren’t helped by field position or momentum. Let’s move on and focus on the other school from Montana
Special Teams: No Grade
I can’t… I really can’t… My heart absolutely breaks for Grant Sands. You never want to know the name of the long snapper. I hope that the fans can rally behind him on Saturday and chant thank you to him for all the good he’s done for the Wildcats. Same for Hudson Schenk, that muffed punt was huge. My emotions are mixed here. It was a bad day, we move on and let's clobber that red team from up north.
It took the offense a bit of time to get going in the first half. With two special teams touchdowns thanks to the kick return by Abraham Williams and punt return by Hudson Schenk, the offense only got on the field twice in the first quarter. That may have played a factor in them trying to get warmed up again after sitting on the sidelines in cold, rainy conditions for nearly 10 minutes of game time. The second quarter is where we really started to see the impact. After Weber State went up 24-9 with nearly 13 minutes left in the half, Montana State rattled off 34 points unanswered. Even just one score during that period changes the game, but the offense struggled to find the rhythm. For me, the redeeming qualities came late in the third and fourth quarters, when the offense made some gutsy plays led by QB Bronson Barron. They worked to get back in the game and had an opportunity to pull it off in the closing seconds, but came away just short. I’m certain the receiving corps will remember critical dropped passes the rest of the season, which should make them even more dynamite as the playoffs loom.
Going in to the game, the defense knew they needed to contain the QB runs that Montana State has made their money on all season. Unfortunately, that’s not the way it played out. Bobcats QB Tommy Mellott came away with a whopping 273 yards and 3 TD’s on the ground, in addition to logging 140 yards and another TD through the air. Mellott was never sacked and didn’t lose a single yard all day. All this while Montana State was short at least two starting offensive linemen. But, some credit needs to be given to the defense for being on the field for such a long time in this one. The special teams plays in the first quarter were electric, but may have cost the Wildcats in the long run. Montana State dominated time of possession nearly 2 to 1 with almost 38 minutes. Couple that with short fields on 5 special teams mistakes and you can see why things went the way they did. In spite of all that, the defense held in the 4th quarter, giving the offense a chance to get back in the game and potentially go for a win. They were put in tough spots all day. Some things didn’t go their way. But they never gave up and played all four quarters. Respect.
Special Teams: C-
Special Teams play garnered Weber State national attention in this one, and not for good reasons. 4 safeties set the NCAA record and was plastered all over social media. Even people here in Tennessee were asking me about it on Monday morning. Rough deal. Those 4 safeties directly led to at least three TD’s, making those mistakes equal to 29 points. Add the muffed punt that gave the Bobcats a very short field to add another TD and we’re talking about 36 points tied directly to Special Teams mistakes. But, on the flip side, there were some big plays in the first quarter, like we mentioned above, clawing back 14 of those points, netting 24 points total. The hope is that the Wildcats don’t have another special teams lapse for the remainder of the season. Not only is it a blow to team morale, but it’s a liability that sometimes can’t be overcome, which is stunning for a team that is now for sound and even productive special teams play.