Weber State football had some hopes on playoff selection day that the bracket could allow them to stage a rematch against Montana State.
While the second round seemed an unlikely time for that to happen, the powers that be filled the matchups in such a way that a rematch was announced at 1 p.m. Saturday.
The Bobcats (10-1) will welcome the Wildcats (10-2) back to Bozeman for the second time this season.
“I wanted this duel because I think they are a great team. I truly believe that if you can beat Montana State, you can beat anyone,” said WSU head coach Jay Hill.
It’s the third time in Hill’s tenure that his Wildcats have gotten a playoff rematch against a Big Sky team they lost to in the regular season. In the previous two (Southern Utah in the second round in 2017 and Montana in the quarterfinals in 2019), Weber State won the playoff game.
But this one has a different taste. In the previous two, WSU didn’t lose — at least not to the same extent — due to massive, self-inflicted errors as it did in October’s regular-season match at MSU, a 43-38 loss.
“We left so much on the field when we first played. I want to go in there and play a clean game and see how it falls. We didn’t do that last time,” Hill said. “We made totally crazy, atypical special team mistakes, we made defensive mistakes that we’re not used to. The offensive did well in bouts, but not consistently. So we have to go in there, play a clean game, let it rip and see how it falls.”
Not that anyone forgot, but, as LeBron James counted in Miami, long snapper Grant Sands sent not one, not two, but four punt snaps that sailed over punter Jack Burgess’ head and all four rolled into the end zone Awarded to the State of Montana for a two-point safety.
And in all four resulting post-safety possessions, Montana State converted short-field touchdown drives.
The Wildcats recognize that this will make the rematch journey different.
“I spoke to Grant Sands today,” Hill said Tuesday. “I said, ‘Grant, you know you’re going to go in there and the players are going to talk, the fans are going to follow you and we all know what happened last time.’ He smiled at me and said, ‘Coach, I know that.’”
It’s one of the many ways WSU feels it has a good matchup as tough as Montana State is.
“It’s not something we’re hiding from. We understand we made some costly mistakes last time, but we also understand that despite all those crazy mistakes and everything that went against us in that game, we still had a chance,” Hill said, referring happen to the late drive of his team, which ended in failure. “In the end we were 20 yards from winning the game. That’s the reality. We’re going to go in there and do a few more games than last time.”
Otherwise, Weber State expects things to stay the same. MSU, for example, was 60 fans away from an October sell-off.
“They played in it, it was a full house, it’s not like they could fit a lot more people than last time,” Hill said. “How we deal with it can be better.”
We’ll see how the weather holds up. In October, the game was played in a rain-soaked mid-40s setting. Saturday may be drier but colder (current forecast is for a high of 27 degrees).
Hill doesn’t think being the loser in the regular season makes much difference to his team.
“I don’t think there’s an advantage, either for us or for them. You know us, we know you. It’s not like the second time around that the loser has an advantage that the winner doesn’t have. They have the same movie as us,” Hill said. “They go over their exercise plans, we go over ours. There’s no advantage there.
“What we have is hopefully our players have a little bit of chips on their shoulders. We have to go in and prove that we can play clean against very good opponents. That’s all it’s about.”