Weber State Escapes Cedar City With Win Over Southern Utah

Apr 3, 2021, 8:43 PM

Weber State Wildcats - Southern Utah Thunderbirds...

(Courtesy of Robert Casey / Weber State Athletics)

(Courtesy of Robert Casey / Weber State Athletics)

CEDAR CITY, Utah – On a windy and sunny Saturday afternoon in Cedar City, the third-ranked Weber State Wildcats football team stormed into Eccles Coliseum to play the Southern Utah Thunderbirds and escaped with a 19-16 victory to improve to 4-0 on the season.

The game started rather uneventful. SUU received the opening kick and the teams exchanged punts, combining for just two first downs on each of their opening drives. 

Then, after the Thunderbirds punted on their second drive of the game, Wildcats starting quarterback Bronson Barron threw a 56-yard bomb to wide receiver Ty MacPherson, putting the Wildcats in the red zone for the first time of the day. After penalties stymied the WSU drive, kicker Kyle Thompson crushed a 51-yard field goal to give Weber State a 3-0 lead. 

With both offenses struggling to establish a solid drive in the first half, this certainly seemed like a game where special teams would play a major role. 

Then lighting (Thunder?) struck.

Weber State was punting from their own 41 yard line, and SUU running back Dayne Christiansen, who was on the field for the special teams unit, got loose on a jailbreak block, blocked the punt and returned it for six. Wildcat defensive tackle Doug Schiess was able to get his glove on the ensuing extra point, keeping it at 6-3. 

Weber State wasn’t able to do anything with their possession and kicked the ball away once again. With a final chance to do some damage prior to the half, SUU signalcaller Justin Miller threaded a pass through the Wildcat defense to tight end Clayton Johnson for 19 yards, setting up a 39-yard field goal for Manny Berz as the first half expired, SUU leading 9-3. 

Wildcat head coach, Jay Hill, master of halftime adjustments, did just that. 

With their first possession of the second half, Weber State started looking to a rushing and short passing attack, giving All-American running back Josh Davis some more touches. Davis ran off tackle to the right side in T-Bird territory, but was hit and went down clutching his left leg. He would be pulled from the game and wouldn’t return. 

After marching 75 yards downfield, the Wildcats finally broke through getting their first touchdown of the game on a four-yard pass in the flat from Barron to tight end Dallin Jamison. Weber State tried for a two-point conversion, but was unsuccessful, keeping the score deadlocked at nine. 

On their next possession, SUU put together the best and most complete drive of the day by either team. 

Starting on their own 22 yard line, the ‘Birds used an impressive combination of running and passing to move the chains six different times, and take over eight minutes off the clock. The drive culminated with the final of three fourth down conversions when Miller snuck into the endzone, giving SUU a 16-9 advantage.

Enter Donate McMillan.

The freshman Wildcat running back got his first touch with a minute left in the third quarter and immediately made his presence known. 

His first down handoff: BOOM, 23 yards.

The ensuing play: another nine yard scamper.

The subsequent play: “D-Mac” took Barron’s handoff and went 43 yards to the crib after breaking a tackle and spinning away from another defender. After the extra point, we had a tie ball game with 14:51 remaining.

The teams would exchange punts before the next big moment in the game happened.

Following a 17-yard completion from Miller to Lance Lawson, SUU running back Jay Green tried to run up the middle where he was met by WSU safety Desmond Williams, who got his hat on the ball, popped it loose and recovered it, giving the Wildcats possession at the Southern Utah 41- yard line with over 12 minutes remaining. 

McMillan, Weber State’s MVP on the day, averaged 10 yards per carry on the next four plays, getting the rock all the way down to the SUU one yard line. On second down, McMillan took the ball up the middle and seemingly crossed the goal line, but the officials never called a touchdown, nor did they review it. Weber State would settle for a chip shot field goal from Thompson, giving the Wildcats the lead that would end up being the final score.

13 carries for 138 yards and a touchdown would be McMillan’s final numbers for the day. 

SUU had two remaining possessions but wasn’t able to do anything of note. The Thunderbirds (1-4) have now lost four games by a combined seven points. They’ll return to Eccles Coliseum next Saturday to play Northern Arizona for the Grand Canyon Trophy.

Weber State advances to 4-0 on the season, having won three of their four games by a combine nine points. The Wildcats remain in first place, and in control of the Big Sky Conference and will play Idaho State at Stewart Stadium in Ogden on April 10th. Kickoff will be at 2:00 pm.

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Weber State Escapes Cedar City With Win Over Southern Utah