September 26, 2022
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Career nights carry Weber State football over Utah Tech 44-14; first 3-0 start in 24 years | News, Sports, Jobs

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Weber State receiver Jacob Sharp (14) hauls in a touchdown catch as Utah Tech’s Steven Ashby (17) gives chase during a game Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, at Stewart Stadium in Ogden. (ISAAC FISHER, Special to the Standard-Examiner)

ISAAC FISHER, Special to the Standard-Examiner

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Weber State running back Damon Bankston (26) carries the football during a game against Utah Tech on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, at Stewart Stadium in Ogden. (ISAAC FISHER, Special to the Standard-Examiner)

ISAAC FISHER, Special to the Standard-Examiner

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Weer State receiver Ty MacPherson (1) stretches the ball for a touchdown as Utah Tech’s Colby Williams (18) tries to wrestle him down during a game Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, at Stewart Stadium in Ogden. (ISAAC FISHER, Special to the Standard-Examiner)

ISAAC FISHER, Special to the Standard-Examiner

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Weber State’s Josh Davis (20) runs the football as Utah Tech defenders Colby Williams (18) and Kaejin Smith-Bejgrowicz (26) converge during a game Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, at Stewart Stadium in Ogden. (ISAAC FISHER, Special to the Standard-Examiner)

ISAAC FISHER, Special to the Standard-Examiner

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Weber State quarterback Bronson Barron (10) looks to throw as Dontae McMillan (28) blocks during a game against Utah Tech on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, at Stewart Stadium in Ogden. (ISAAC FISHER, Special to the Standard-Examiner)

ISAAC FISHER, Special to the Standard-Examiner

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Weber State quarterback Bronson Barron (10) play-fakes to Josh Davis (20) during a game against Utah Tech on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, at Stewart Stadium in Ogden. (ISAAC FISHER, Special to the Standard-Examiner)

ISAAC FISHER, Special to the Standard-Examiner

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Weber State’s Hayden Meacham (96) lifts up Jacob Sharp (14) after Sharp’s touchdown reception during a game against Utah Tech on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, at Stewart Stadium in Ogden. (ISAAC FISHER, Special to the Standard-Examiner)

ISAAC FISHER, Special to the Standard-Examiner

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Weber State defensive back Kamden Garrett (7) celebrates a pass breakup as Utah Tech’s Callin Daniels (89) recovers during a game Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, at Stewart Stadium in Ogden. (ISAAC FISHER, Special to the Standard-Examiner)

ISAAC FISHER, Special to the Standard-Examiner

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Weber State defensive linemen Brayden Wilson (94) and Kalisi Moli (98) battle blocks from Utah Tech offensive linemen Walter Pongia (54) and Kanai’i Eldredge (64) during a game Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, at Stewart Stadium in Ogden. (ISAAC FISHER, Special to the Standard-Examiner)

ISAAC FISHER, Special to the Standard-Examiner

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Weber State defensive lineman Zeke Birch (91) pulls down Utah Tech quarterback Kobe Tracy (16) for a sack Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, at Stewart Stadium in Ogden. (ISAAC FISHER, Special to the Standard-Examiner)

ISAAC FISHER, Special to the Standard-Examiner

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Weber State running back Josh Davis (20) finds a hole as Utah Tech’s Syrus Webster (0) reaches during a game Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, at Stewart Stadium in Ogden. (ISAAC FISHER, Special to the Standard-Examiner)

ISAAC FISHER, Special to the Standard-Examiner

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Weber State defensive end Jack Kelly (17) contends with Utah Tech lineman Bayo Kannike (71) during a game Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, at Stewart Stadium in Ogden. (ISAAC FISHER, Special to the Standard-Examiner)

ISAAC FISHER, Special to the Standard-Examiner

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Weber State quarterback Bronson Barron rears back to throw during a game against Utah Tech on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, at Stewart Stadium in Ogden. (ISAAC FISHER, Special to the Standard-Examiner)

ISAAC FISHER, Special to the Standard-Examiner
















OGDEN — Weber State football broke out of the gates in a hurry to open Saturday’s home game against Utah Tech, racking up 217 yards in an eventful first quarter.

Hours later with the fourth-quarter clock at zeroes, the Wildcats had totaled 623 yards of offense, clamped down the UTU passing game and cruised to a 44-14 win at Stewart Stadium to begin the 2022 season with a 3-0 record — the first full season WSU has started 3-0 since 1998.

“Good game, solid game. A lot of good,” WSU head coach Jay Hill said.

Weber State’s defense forced four turnovers, including three interceptions, and several offensive players posted career marks for Weber State.

Sophomore quarterback Bronson Barron’s 368 passing yards are a career-high, coming on a highly efficient 25 of 33 mark while throwing for four touchdowns (tying a career high) and zero interceptions.

Sophomore running back Damon Bankston rushed for a career-high 161 yards on just 15 carries, including a touchdown. Sophomore receiver Jacob Sharp hauled in a career-high 116 receiving yards on seven catches, adding a touchdown. Senior receiver Ty MacPherson caught a career-high three touchdowns, totaling 140 yards (a second-best career mark) on six total catches.

And junior linebacker Winston Reid totaled a career-high 11 tackles.

The fireworks started immediately after kickoff. Barron hit MacPherson for a 45-yard sideline route on the game’s second play, then the two later connected for a 13-yard score in which MacPherson fought across the goal line to make it 7-0 — six plays, 77 yards, 1:35 off the clock.

Weber State struck quickly again. A Bankston 29-yard run helped set up a 35-yard rope from Barron to Sharp over the right side of the defense for another score, making it 14-0 with 10 minutes left in the first quarter — four plays, 98 yards, 1:09 off the clock.

“T-Mac is the vet in the room … we know he’s going to show up and play,” Barron said. “Jacob has really stepped up big. Near the end of fall camp, we put a lot of trust, a lot of ‘hey, we’re going to need you’ and he’s done a great job of rising to the occasion.”

Utah Tech answered with its best drive of the game, a 15-play, 75-yard push that continued after a three-and-out was negated by Weber State running into the punter. Kobe Tracy hit David Fisher for an 8-yard score to make it a 14-7 ballgame.

Aided by a roughing the passer penalty to start the drive, Weber State flashed like lightning one more time. A 16-yard dig route to Sharp converted a long third down and set up a 36-yard strike to MacPherson over the top of the defense for a 21-7 lead — seven plays, 72 yards, 2:18 off the clock.

It looked like all the hopes and wishes had come true in WSU’s hire of Mickey Mental as offensive coordinator, and seemed the prototype for what the Wildcats want to be on offense: simple, direct, decisive and overwhelmingly fast.

“I feel like that was the big thing, we were able to just keep the momentum,” Barron said. “Just being able to get those sparks going was big and it was great to start out that way, start off hot.”

Utah Tech answered with its final scoring drive of the game, a nine-play, 75-yard possession that ended with Tracy tossing a 37-yard touchdown throw to Joey Hobert on fourth-and-8 to cut the score to 21-14.

Weber State’s offense never let up, but it did begin to struggle to convert touchdowns deep in UTU territory — which, for a time, seemed like it would open the door for the high-powered Trailblazers passing game.

Maxwell Anderson’s fourth interception of the season set Weber up with a short field, but a goal-to-go series ended with Kris Jackson getting 1 of the needed 2 yards on fourth down. Utah Tech went nowhere on the ensuing possession, punting out of its own end zone to midfield. Haze Hadley continued to prove his punt-return mettle (he had nine punt returns for 105 yards), returning it 20 yards.

One 20-yard throw to Justin Malone had Weber at goal-to-go again but WSU settled for a 24-yard Kyle Thompson field goal midway through the second quarter — and that 24-14 mark was the halftime score.

“The offense has got to get more touchdowns in the red zone,” Hill said. “Now, I’ll give them this: eight times in the red zone is huge. That means you’re gaining yards, you’re being productive in the run game and the throw game. We have got to find a way to punch in a few of those touchdowns when we get in the red zone.”

Early in the third quarter, another UTU punt deep in its own territory and a Hadley return set up WSU with a 40-yard field. Dontae McMillan took a handoff on the first play to the Utah Tech 26 but fumbled with the Trailblazers recovering.

“We have really high expectations for ourself. A win’s a win, but we didn’t play nearly to the level we know we can. We left points on the board, that’s frustrating, it will be cleaned up,” Barron said. “It will be great film for us to learn and improve … it’s a long season and if we get better every week, we’ll be happy.”

Weber State’s defense, meanwhile, clamped down after chasing down 47 plays for 248 yards in the first half. Utah Tech gained just 23 yards in the third quarter and 83 in the second half, finishing with 331 yards on a whopping 85 plays.

The Wildcats hassled Tracy into hits and hurries, turning the Trailblazers’ offense into an inefficient mess as he struggled against the pressure to remain accurate. UTU led all four NCAA divisions/subdivisions at 452 passing yards per game through two games, including throwing for 506 yards in the opener against Sacramento State, but Saturday totaled just 245 passing yards. Tracy finished 20 of 47 for 225 yards and an interception.

“We just continued to stay the course. Don’t worry about a couple first downs, don’t worry about extended drives. Find a way out and, once you figure it out, I think we pounced on them pretty good,” Hill said. “That offense is a lot like playing option offense, like a Kennesaw State or something like that. You can’t simulate the way they run it in practice and, in a way, it’s just a variation of the option, they’re just doing it with the throw game.

“They do a good job with their route combinations and structures, and the screen game, and all the other stuff they were doing. Those guys do a good job and have dang good coaches who put together a good game plan. We just needed a second to figure it out.”

Abraham Williams picked off backup QB Victor Gabalis twice in the fourth quarter, once on a deflection from Toddrick Dixon who jumped a route, and later recovered a fumble forced by Dixon as the game clock expired.

Nuu Sellesin totaled 1.5 sacks, Garrett Beck had one sack and seven tackles, and the WSU defense totaled 10 quarterback hurries, led by three each from Kalisi Moli and Brayden Wilson.

Saturday’s three interceptions increase the nation-leading season total for Weber State’s defense to 10 through three games. Utah Tech went 4 of 20 on third down, which was actually better than what WSU had allowed through the previous two games (4 of 29); that 8 of 49 total (16.3%) is likely to remain tops in FCS in third-down conversion defense.

“I think our DBs are really good and we can rely on them,” Reid said. “Our front seven can hold down the run and rely on those (defensive backs) to man up on their guys.”

All that bought plenty of time for Weber State’s offense to regain its footing, having gone six straight possessions without a touchdown after opening the game with three straight touchdowns.

A quick, seven-play drive ended on a stellar Barron corner fade throw to MacPherson, a 17-yard connection that put Weber State up 31-14 with 6:26 left in the third.

Two defensive three-and-outs led to Thompson field goals of 24 and 29 yards, the second one coming as the third-quarter clock expired for a 37-14 lead.

Abraham Williams returned his first interception about 15 yards to the Utah Tech 20. After Barron hit Treyshun Hurry with a quick 14-yard throw, Bankston was rewarded with a touchdown for his huge night, punching it in from 6 yards out to make it 44-14 with 6:35 left in the game.

“I’m proud of the O-line in the way they stepped up … (Bankston) was prepared, the O-line was prepared and preparation took over,” Barron said.

Williams got his second interception just two plays later and returned it about 30 yards near the Utah Tech goal line but fumbled the ball through the end zone for a touchback.

Utah Tech’s primary running back, Quali Conley, totaled 10 yards on nine carries. Boone Abbott, the team’s third-string quarterback, pushed UTU across 100 yards rushing with three late, garbage-time scrambles for 23 yards to lead his team in rushing.

Hobert continued to look like one of the best receivers in the FCS, totaling nine catches for 114 yards for the Trailblazers.

Weber State has won five straight games by an average score of 46-9.

The Wildcats open Big Sky Conference play with a tough road trip to UC Davis (1-2) on Sept. 24.



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