OGDEN, Utah — Following his team’s 34-24 loss at Weber State on Saturday, Montana State coach Jeff Choate pointed to a key second-quarter sequence that he thought served as a big momentum-shifter.
With 42 seconds left before halftime, Wildcats running back Treshawn Garrett scored the first of his three 1-yard rushing touchdowns to trim Montana State’s lead to 17-14. But it’s what happened earlier in that possession that seemed to truly motivate Weber State.
Quarterback Kaden Jenks, who came in off the bench in the first quarter in relief of struggling starter Jake Constantine, suffered a ghastly broken ankle when he was tackled by Tyrone Fa’anono and others at the end of a 6-yard run.
The result of the injury — his foot was turned backwards 180 degrees — was visible from the press box above the field, where it elicited gasps and groans.
The game was delayed while Jenks was tended to. Players returned to their sidelines and knelt down. Jenks was eventually carted off.
Constantine, previously benched by coach Jay Hill, resumed quarterback duties for the remainder of the drive and completed three consecutive passes to push the Wildcats toward the end zone, from where Garrett punched it in. The Wildcats suddenly had offensive life.
"Kaden Jenks is such a tough guy and such a loved guy on our football team," Hill said in comments provided by the Standard-Examiner newspaper. "When they (set) that ankle back into place, he said 'Tape it up and let me go back in there.' I'm like, ‘Just calm down a little bit.’
"But that's the toughness that can rally a football team. Our team got in a huddle and I heard them say it: 'We're going to go win this for Kaden.' That's what you want to see on a football team is to bind together over something like that."
The Wildcats reeled off 27 points after Jenks was injured. In the process, Constantine looked like he had greater command of the offense.
Choate couldn’t say whether or not the gruesome nature of the injury had any kind of an effect on MSU’s defensive psyche for the remainder of that possession, but he definitely thought the resulting touchdown swung the momentum.
“It was an unfortunate deal. Feel very bad for that young man,” Choate said. “I do think Constantine hit some throws on that drive, and I think that confidence carried over for him in the second half.”
Of the nature of the injury, Bobcats QB Troy Andersen said, “That’s just really tough. You hate to see anybody get injured that bad. Prayers up to him.”
Jenks was the original spark for Weber State before he went down. After MSU took a 10-0 lead — while picking off Constantine twice — Jenks scored on an 8-yard run early in the second quarter to finally give the Wildcats their first points.
The Bobcats hounded Constantine early and forced him into some bad throws. But he played with more poise once he returned to the game. Members of MSU’s defense said later that the Wildcats didn’t change their offensive approach, they just executed better.
“They’re the No. 7 team in the country for a reason,” said Brayden Konkol, who made 13 tackles for MSU. “I thought we played a really good first half up until the last minute and a half, and then they got the better of us in the second half. We’d been so good in the second half all season long.”
Cornerback Greg Filer III, who returned an interception 27 yards for a touchdown against Constantine in the third quarter, had a similar opinion.
“We fought to the end, they just fought harder. That sums it up right there,” Filer said. “That’s a good ball club.
“We fought, they just fought harder.”