Weber State’s football team got itself in the NCAA history books on Saturday afternoon... just not for the right reasons. Long snapper Grant Sands sent not one, not two, not three but FOUR errant snaps over the head of punter Jack Burgess and through the end zone for safeties. In spite of even that catastrophic performance, though, the Wildcats still had a chance at the end. What should have been a routine catch, though, was dropped in the closing seconds and Montana State held on for the gutsy, wild win at home.
The Bobcats (7-1) had their own special teams struggles early in this one. Weber State’s Abraham Williams broke free on a 100-yard kickoff return to put the visiting Wildcats on top. Shortly following Montana State’s first touchdown, WSU recorded another one when Hudson Schenck brought back a punt 91 yards to the house. MSU seemingly had no answers in the kicking game and trailed 24-9 early in the second quarter.
Quarterback Tommy Mellott regrouped Montana State, though, and led a 59-yard scoring drive that he capped with a one-yard TD run to draw the score to 24-18. The Bobcats regained the lead shortly after when Mellott connected with Derek Snell for a 15-yard strike. Mixed in there for MSU, though, was three bad snaps that resulted in safeties in the opening two frames; an FCS record for a single half of play.
Sands’ horrific day sending the ball got downright dreadful in the third quarter when he airmailed his fourth snap out of the back of the end zone to extend MSU’s lead to 29-24. He walked to the sideline dejected, setting a record that may never again be broken.
Montana State rode their newfound momentum to yet another offensive score. This time Mellott did it himself as he cut loose to the outside on a 36-yard touchdown run. The Bobcats now led 35-24 midway through the third. Fullback RJ Fitzgerald would give MSU its biggest lead of the afternoon not long after with a TD run of his own.
The Wildcats didn’t fold, however, and Bronson Barron rallied the troops. Barron hit receiver Ty MacPherson for a 21-yard score to cut the deficit back to 11.
Weber State’s defense came up with a huge stop of 4th and 1 on their own 14-yard line shortly after when they stuffed Lane Sumner for no gain. The offense again answered the call as Barron led a lengthy 86-yard excursion that wound up in the end zone. His one-yard TD push silenced the Montana State crowd. All the momentum was back on the side of WSU.
The worry that MSU fans must have felt only grew when Wildcats linebacker Garrett Beck stopped running back Elijah Elliot on third and short to force another punt. Barron and company began driving yet again and, with the clock winding down, they were driving to win it.
Three times the Bobcats defense put the Wildcats in a fourth down situation on the final series. Twice Barron converted but the third time his pass to MacPherson fluttered incomplete deep within MSU territory. The fans erupted as Montana State clung on for the victory.
The win does wonders for #3 Montana State has them sitting pretty heading into their bye week. Brent Vigen’s team still has not lost to an FCS opponent this season and now has one of their hardest games on the year behind them with three to go. Road games at Northern Arizona and Cal Poly are winnable before MSU welcomes in Montana later next month.
For the Wildcats, this is a heartbreaker but it does not kill the hopes of a playoff trip. Weber State (6-1) still has a very good shot at reaching the postseason and even receiving a seed if they can win out. Their asparations of a Big Sky title, though, took a big hit. They will get ready to face Montana next weekend.
There’s no doubt that the four safeties were the difference here. Sands’ terrible day not only directly lead to eight Montana State points but will undoubtedly go down in college football lore. It was rainy in Bozeman on Saturday but even with the weather, no one could have foreseen those oddities.
Mellott finished his day with 273 rushing yards along with 140 passing yards and four total touchdowns. Barron threw for 151 yards and a score but no Weber State running back got over 80 yards and no receiver had over 70 yards. Montana State scored the most points any opponent has over WSU this season as they extend their home win streak to 17 games.