Bears football drops first conference game, falling to Weber State

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The University of Northern Colorado offensive line lines up last season in a game at Nottingham Field. Photo courtesy of uncears.com

For the fourth week in a row the University of Northern Colorado football team has shown it can compete with a ranked team. This is also the fourth week the Bears return home with a loss. Moral victories are mounting, while the Bears continue to wait for an actual victory.

The Bears are noticeably frustrated and having tough luck, but there can be no excuses moving forward. Four losses are basically a breaking point to almost mathematically eliminate playoff hopes completely.

Each week UNC shows signs of many good efforts and how talented its players are. The problem is every game there is either a lack of execution or questionable play calling.

Even if both sides put in a full effort, each side also needs to complement each other well with follow through performances and plays that work off available strengths.

First Half

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Ogden, Utah has a beautiful field to play on, but is a terribly hard place to win at. Despite the strong reputation, the Bears opened well, picking off Weber State on their first defensive stand.

Having a short field to work with the Bears pieced together a successful drive ending with a 13-yard touchdown by Milo Hall.

On Weber State’s second drive they met fierce opposition from the UNC defense, until Jake Constantine threw a pass to a wide-open Rashid Shaheed for a 46-yard touchdown.

The Bears offense would again look strong by establishing solid and successful plays. They pushed Weber State all the way to the 1-yard line until Keaton Mott fumbled on a quarterback scramble.

Following the turnover, the Bear’s defense let a huge play happen again by allowing Josh Davis to split the defensive line for a 96-yard run (tied for second longest rush in Weber State history).

A quick 3-and-out by the Bears offense gave Weber State another scoring opportunity. The Wildcat offense methodically hurdled each roadblock UNC presented. Eventually, Jake Constantine would throw to another wide-open receiver on a corner route.

Looking to change the Bear’s fortune, Keaton Mott tried desperately, but was often sacked, hurried, and hit shortly after throwing. Adding to the pressure, offensive lineman Zach Wilkinson went down at least temporarily with a leg injury.

Milo Hall truly was an inspiration to the UNC offense when Mott was having trouble connecting passes or getting heavy pressure. The drive would end well with an athletic touchdown catch from Theron Verna.

One drive later the Bears would bring things back to even. Two big catches from Alex Wesley resulted in a diving catch backwards for a 42-yard touchdown.

A few punts later Weber State’s offense finally was gaining some steam until Isiah Swopes intercepted Constantine to end the half.

Halftime: UNC 21, Weber State 21

Second Half

In the second half, Weber State came sprinting out of the gates and never looked back. Bad positioning on the kickoff gave the Wildcats a 100-yard return for a touchdown.

UNC, eager to respond, tried too hard to make plays where they simply were not. After some traction Keaton Mott tried to make the third down conversion but threw an interception deep on the Bears own side of the field.

With great field position Weber State would capitalize on the drive with some successful passes and Josh Davis scoring a touchdown on the ground.

The Bears offense had little momentum going and continued the punting trend. Noel Reid and the defense finally excited the Bears by getting a rare sack on Constantine.

With momentum also came penalties — and a hefty dose of drama.

Trae Hoskins, a reliable and talented safety, was ejected for targeting. That was only one of four times the refs would rule on a targeting issue.

Once the booing had stopped and Hoskins was off the field, Milo Hall was able to break out a decent run to the 5-yard line. One play later Michael McCauley would make another athletic catch for a Bears touchdown.

The Wildcat offense was starting to show signs of tiredness and barely converting downs, but a controversial targeting call on UNC’s Sherand Boyd Jr. would keep their drive alive.

Hoskin’s penalty was very cut and dry since the receiver was defenseless, crown of helmet contact was made, and no attempt to avoid contact was made. For Boyd, he tried to avoid a penalty for roughing the passer and avoided all contact except incidentally bumping Constantine’s helmet, facemask to facemask.

Although the penalty helped, the Wildcats drive would be all for not as their kicker missed a 45-yard field goal wide right by at least 10 yards.

UNC tried to shake things up on their next drive. Trae Riek entered the game for the first time and had little success compared to Milo Hall. Things would go south once more as Mott scrambled out right to make a pass but was hit from behind leading to an interception.

Weber State had great field position and was eager to move past the failed field goal attempt, but a well-timed hit lead Weber State to fumble the ball and UNC recovered.

A great pass from Mott to Willie Fairman gained good yardage. UNC’s progress would be halted there, although another Wildcat player would be ejected for targeting on the Keaton Mott sack.

Weber State’s offense continued to struggle, but was relieved by a fourth targeting call and second on the Bears. This time the Weber State kicker did not miss the field goal.

The game had been pretty well decided at this point and a lack of connections paired with another turnover on downs sealed the deal.

Final: Weber State 45, UNC 28           

The Mirror’s Keys to the Game Checklist

Defense:

Pressure the QB: While passing was not the main threat from Weber State, Constantine did have opportunities to make long throws, but was also sacked twice.

University of Northern Colorado defensive lineman Keenan Leary chases down McNeese State quarterback James Tabary as he attempts to throw in a Sept. 1 game at Nottingham Field in Greeley. Photo courtesy of uncbears.com

Call on the freshmen: Jerone Jackson has done well at starting safety, recording another strong game on the heels of Sacramento State.

Limit opponent time of possession: The minutes were almost even this week, which is not a win for this category, but also not a loss.

Offense:

The Mott system: From his first start there are definite pros and cons, but Mott seems able and talented enough to lead the team successfully.

Build the run game: When Milo Hall is running things seem to go well with his elusive style and quick thinking. When Trae Riek comes in and tries to power run he does well, but the blocking is inconsistent.

Execute: Besides the big plays of 20-plus yards and the sacks on Mott the team as a whole did their jobs well.

 

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