After this week, we will have only one Big Sky team left in the postseason. And whichever squad that is will likely be on the road for the rest of the playoffs.
Weber State won a gritty game against Western Illinois last week to advance to the second round. Andrew Vollert came up big when it mattered and the defense was able to shut down everyone on the Leathernecks not named Jaelon Acklin to get the victory.
While the Wildcats struggled, Southern Utah was watching and taking a week off by virtue of winning the Big Sky and receiving a bye as one of the top eight seeds. The Thunderbirds only lost one FCS game all season and that was because quarterback Patrick Tyler had been hurt the week prior in a victory over Northern Iowa.
FCS Second Round Betting Odds
Weber State +7.5
Southern Utah -7.5
These two teams were pretty evenly matched for the first couple of quarters when they met about a month and a half ago in Ogden. They were tied at 13 late in the second frame and Weber State had been moving the ball pretty well before disaster struck for the Wildcats.
Standout quarterback Stefan Cantwell suffered a concussion while trying to make a play and Weber State’s offense fell apart after that. The rest of the game the unit scored just three points and its inability to move the ball caused a collapse on the defensive side.
Weber State had three different players attempt passes once Cantwell was injured, but the trio combined to go just 8-for-19 for 53 yards with two interceptions. With the passing game on lockdown, the Wildcats tried to rely on the run but that proved ineffective as well without a viable air attack. They averaged just 2.8 yards per carry.
Southern Utah’s offense thrived in this situation and moved the ball with ease. The final score could have been a lot worse than 32-16 as Tyler threw for 281 yards and three scores, while the ground game averaged six yards per carry.
The Wildcats are optimistic things will be different with a healthy Cantwell, but the defense cannot collapse like it did last time.
Keep an Eye On…
Southern Utah wins games because of its defense, but Tyler has been very good about getting the Thunderbirds on the scoreboard all year. Southern Utah has scored at least 20 points in every game this season and his dual-threat ability has created plenty of chances for this team all year.
Tyler is a constant threat to tuck it and run despite having just 316 yards on the ground all year. The NCAA numbers factor sacks into that equation and he has been sacked 15 times this season. When you take his carries into account that means he is probably averaging around 4.5 yards per rush when you exclude sacks.
The one bugaboo for him has been his propensity to throw picks. He tossed three interceptions and that nearly cost Southern Utah when it faced Northern Iowa earlier this season. Tyler has thrown at least one pick in all but two games this year and that’s a problem that the Wildcats will look to exploit.
Weber State should not be this big of an underdog. The Wildcats are the most underrated team in the FCS and their resume speaks for itself. They outplayed a good Cal team early in the season and led the Golden Bears into the fourth quarter before losing. Their only other loss was against Southern Utah after Cantwell was injured.
Look for Vollert to have a big game for the Wildcats in this one. Southern Utah has a very good defense, but it’s hard for teams to stop a talent like Vollert. Not many schools use a tight end anymore like Weber State does with him, and he was instrumental in the team’s win over Western Illinois last week. I think he will go over the 100-yard mark again and pick up a few big third downs as the Wildcats squeeze past the Thunderbirds.
Pick: Weber State +7.5