After a dominating performance in its opening week against CU-Boulder, the CSU defense struggled against Weber State in the Rams’ 24-23 win Saturday.
Ultimately, it was a defensive fumble recovery that sealed the Rams’ win, but the Wildcat offense controlled the field, holding the ball for 38 minutes, 4 seconds while piling up 316 yards of total offense.
“There are some areas that are disappointing obviously,” defensive coordinator Larry Kerr said. “We did probably the opposite of the week before.”
The Rams defense only sacked Weber State quarterback Cameron Higgins twice after racking up four sacks against CU-Boulder.
“Their quarterback got rid of the ball fast. It was hard to get pressure on him,” defensive tackle Guy Miller said.
Higgins completed 29 of 47 passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns, both to tight end Cody Nakamura.
Stopping the Wildcats on third down was a challenge for the Rams, which allowed Weber State to convert 8 of 10 third downs in the first half and 11 for 21 in the game.
Weber State’s offense converted two fourth down conversions on its final drive.
“There are some areas I think when we’re a young team, you’re still learning how to handle things,” Kerr said.
Where some of this inexperience showed were three costly penalties on the defensive side of the ball.
In the second quarter, a roughing-the-passer call on Miller nullified what would have been cornerback DeAngelo Wilkinson’s first career interception. The Wildcats capitalized, going in for the score to take the lead 20-17.
And on Weber State’s final possession, an offsides penalty wiped out linebacker Michael Kawulok’s fourth-and-1 stop, which preserved the Wildcats’ drive.
“We kept beating ourselves in making penalties and costing ourselves situations,” Kawulok said. “We beat ourselves on a lot of those third downs on plays we should have made but we made miscues.”
But the defense made two crucial plays to hang on to the victory. Freshman linebacker James Skelton intercepted a screen pass and returned it 18 yards to set up the go-ahead touchdown for the Rams and Miller recovered the fumbled snap at the Rams’ own 10-yard line in the game’s final minute with Weber State threatening to kick the game-winning field goal.
Head coach Steve Fairchild said he’s just glad to get the win and that his team will be better prepared for its game against Nevada Saturday.
“We just need to play smarter and that all comes back to me. I obviously didn’t have us ready to play today and we’ll certainly address that with the football team next week,” Fairchild said.
Football beat reporter Stephen Meyers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.