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Weber State football: highlighting Weber State's historic 2017 season

Weber State football players raise their arms. WSU won a record 11 games in 2017 and captured the Big Sky Conference title.
Weber State football players raise their arms. WSU won a record 11 games in 2017 and captured the Big Sky Conference title.
Robert Casey, Weber State Athletics

The 2017 season will go in the history books as the best season in Weber State history. The Wildcats reached many milestones in 2017. Here are 11 accomplishments this season:

1. 11 wins

Weber State won a school-record 11 games in 2017, the most wins in the history of the program. The Wildcats had previously won 10 games on two occasions, and this was just the third time ever winning more than eight games in a season. The 11 wins were the most of any school in the Big Sky this season, and the ‘Cats are one of eight teams in the nation to win 11 or more games.

2. Big Sky Conference title

After being picked to finish fifth in the preseason polls, the Wildcats posted a 7-1 conference record to claim a share of the Big Sky title for just the fifth time in school history and the first since 2008. The 7-1 conference record is also tied for the best in WSU history. The Wildcats tied for the conference title with Southern Utah, then defeated the Thunderbirds in the second round of the FCS Playoffs. Weber State was the final Big Sky team playing in the playoffs for just the second time ever.

3. First playoff home game

Weber State hosted its first playoff game at Stewart Stadium on Nov. 25, as the Wildcats took on Western Illinois. Weber State beat the Leathernecks, 21-19, in an exciting game, giving WSU its third playoff win and advancing the ‘Cats to the second round where they won at Southern Utah.

4. Two FCS Playoff wins

Another first occurred as Weber State won two games in the FCS Playoffs in the same year for the first time. Weber State won just its third playoff game as it defeated Western Illinois in the first round in Ogden. The Wildcats followed that up with a 30-13 win at Southern Utah in the second round to secure two playoff wins for the first time.

5. Top-10 national ranking

The Wildcats were ranked nationally in either the FCS Coaches poll or the STATS FCS poll each week of the season. WSU started the season ranked 22nd in the nation in the coaches poll. The Wildcats continued to climb in the national rankings, and prior to the FCS Playoffs they were ranked as high as eighth in the coaches poll and 11th in the STATS poll. It was the highest national ranking since the 2008 season.

Weber State also defeated four nationally ranked teams, beating Montana, Eastern Washington, Western Illinois and Southern Utah.

6. Six road wins

Weber State won a school-record six games on the road this season, finishing 6-2 away from Stewart Stadium. The six road wins is also tied for the most of any team in the country. The Wildcats picked up road wins at Sacramento State, Montana State, Cal Poly, Eastern Washington, Portland State and Southern Utah.

7. Seven-straight wins

From Oct. 21 until the final game of the season, the Wildcats won seven-straight games, with four of them on the road. The Wildcats had wins over Cal Poly, Montana, Eastern Washington, Portland State, Idaho State, Western Illinois and Southern Utah.

The seven-straight wins make up the longest in-season winning streak in school history and the third longest overall winning streak.

8. 17 players earned All-Conference honors

Weber State had 17 players earn Big Sky All-Conference honors this season, including a conference-best eight players on the first team. Senior cornerback Taron Johnson and senior tight end Andrew Vollert were both unanimous selections to the first team. They were joined on the first team by junior offensive tackle Iousa Opeta, freshman kicker Trey Tuttle, freshman returner Rashid Shaheed, senior tackle McKay Murphy, junior linebacker LeGrand Toia and junior special teams player Brady May.

9. Defensive MVP

Weber State senior cornerback Johnson was selected as the Big Sky Conference Defensive MVP. He became the fourth player from WSU history to earn the honor and the first in 13 years.

Johnson started all 14 games for the Wildcats and served as a team captain. He had three interceptions and totaled nine pass breakups. He became the school’s all-time leader in pass breakups with 42. He was also invited to participate in the Senior Bowl in January, the fourth player from Weber State to play in the prestigious game and the first in 18 years.

10. National rankings

The Wildcats had several statistical rankings in the top 10 in the country this season, and the ‘Cats boasted one of the top defenses and special teams units in the nation. Weber State finished the year ranked in the top 10 in the nation in seven categories and led the Big Sky Conference in several categories.

The Wildcats were fourth in the country in net punting (40.38), fifth in interceptions (18), sixth in the nation in time of possession (33:22), seventh in turnovers gained (28), seventh in kickoff returns (25.23), ninth in total first downs (276) and 10th in red zone defense (67.6 percent).

Individually, Weber State had several other spots in the top 10 in FCS football. Rashid Shaheed finished second in the country in kickoff returns for touchdowns (two) and was also fourth in kickoff returns (29.7). Xequille Harry was second in punt returns (15.3). Senior quarterback Stefan Cantwell was fourth in points responsible for with 210. Freshman kicker Tuttle finished second in field goals made (19) and fourth in field goal percentage (86.4 percent), and he was ninth in field goals per game (1.36) and 10th in scoring (8.3 points per game).

In addition, the Wildcats were the top team in eight different statistical categories. WSU was first in scoring defense, total defense, rushing defense, interceptions, pass efficiency defense, punting, kickoff returns, red zone defense and time of possession.

11. Single-season records

Weber State set some school statistical records and had several spots on the all-time top-10 lists.

The Wildcats opened the season with a school-record 76 points in a shutout win over Montana Western. It was the most points scored in a game and the largest margin of victory in school history. The 76 points were also the second most any team scored this season and was WSU’s first shutout in 10 years.

Weber State also had the third-most rushing yards in a game when the ‘Cats totaled 421 yards rushing at Portland State.

Individually, freshman Tuttle tied a school record with 19 made field goals, finishing 19-of-22 on field goals. He also scored the fourth most in points in a season.

Senior Cantwell had 3,575 yards of total offense, the fifth most in a season. He also had 492 total yards against Cal, the most by a Wildcat against an FBS team. Cantwell threw for 2,978 yards, the 10th most in a season.

Freshman Shaheed had the fifth-most kickoff return yards in a season with 743 and had the eighth-most 100-yard return in school history. Senior Harry had the sixth-most punt return yards in a season with 306 and recorded the fourth-longest punt return in school history at 84 yards in a win over UC Davis.

Treshawn Garrett moved to 11th in career rushing yards, and Vollert and Drew Batchelor each reached 1,500 yards receiving and 100 career receptions.

Paul Grua is the Director of Athletic Communications at Weber State University.