Saturday, December 6, 2008

Montana Grizzlies End The Weber State Wildcats' Cinderella Football Season, 24-13; James Madison Awaits The Grizzlies

It was a great run for the Weber State Wildcats, but the clock finally struck midnight, the law of averages reasserted itself, and the coach turned back into a pumpkin. On December 6th, 2008, the Montana Grizzlies rebuffed a determined Weber State Wildcat squad in an FCS quarterfinals playoff game by a 24-13 score.

Utah media stories from the Ogden Standard-Examiner, the Deseret News and the Salt Lake Tribune. The Weber County Forum weighs in HERE.

Montana media stories from the Missoulian and MontanaGrizzlies.com.

Game photos available HERE.

The Grizzlies and their fans had a special reason to be motivated. During the regular season, Montana lost only one game...to Weber State by a 45-28 score in Ogden on October 4th. So when tickets first went on sale for this game in Missoula, payback-hungry fans stormed the petrels and snapped up 10,500 ducats on the first day of sale alone. And they went home happy.

Weber State's problem - it was unable to overcome early turnovers and couldn't cash in with touchdowns when it drove inside Montana's 20. Such mistakes are generally irreparable against a 12-1 team.

Wildcat running back Trevyn Smith rushed for 104 yards and had 129 receiving yards, while Cameron Higgins passed for 270 yards and was intercepted once, but two first quarter Wildcat turnovers quickly put them in arrears 14-0. Nevertheless, the Wildcats clawed their way back, drawing to within 17-10 in the fourth quarter. They were in position to tie the game at 17-17 when they drove to the Grizzlies' 11-yard line, but the drive stalled and they had to settle for a 22-yard field goal by Jon Williams to make it 17-13 with 9:00 left to play. Shortly thereafter, Montana salted the game away when Chase Reynolds rumbled in with a 12-yard touchdown run with 4:02 left in the game to up the score to 24-13, capping a day in which he ran for 185 yards and two touchdowns.

Weber State, which shared the Big Sky Conference regular season championship with Montana, was playing in just its second FCS quarterfinal game in school history. But Montana (13-1) now advances to the FCS semifinals against James Madison, who barely turned back a determined Villanova team 31-27. At 12-1, James Madison will be no pushover for Montana.

Not mentioned in any of the game stories is controversial Weber State player Bryant Eteuati. After getting into legal trouble, he was suspended from the team for three games, during which the Wildcats went 3-0. After Eteuati accepted a plea deal, the team reinstated him, a decision strongly panned by a majority of Weber State fans. And since Eteuati's reinstatement, the Wildcats were only 1-2.

However, I'm not so sure Weber State would have won even if Eteuati was still suspended. The costly fumbles were coughed up by the offense. The fact is, Montana was clearly a superior team to Weber State, and they proved it on the field, outplaying and outscoring the Wildcats. They earned their victory.

But Utah football fans can be proud of Weber State's performance this year. They finished 10-4, with 493 points scored, tops in the Big Sky, and 317 points allowed. The Wildcats sent a message to Utah and BYU - there's a third kid on the block now.

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