7:30 PM ET, November 18, 2006
Falcon Stadium, UNITED STATES AF ACA, CO
AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) -- Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry shook Eric Weddle's hand after Utah's 17-14 victory Saturday night and told the country's most versatile player he was getting robbed.
"I told him, 'They're cheating you, son. They ought to be giving you two scholarships. You're playing both sides of the football, and doing as much for them as you're doing, you deserve two scholarships," DeBerry said.
Weddle, the reigning defensive player of the year in the Mountain West Conference, ran 12 times for 73 yards and two touchdowns, made eight solo tackles, returned a punt and held for Louie Sakoda's 37-yard field goal as time expired.
"Whatever they need me to do," said Weddle, who played safety, cornerback, linebacker, tailback, quarterback, punt returner, kick returner and holder at Falcon Stadium.
"Typical night," said the multitalented senior, who has scored seven touchdowns this season for the Utes (7-4, 5-2 Mountain West), winners of three straight.
"I love scoring touchdowns," Weddle said. "It's been a dream season."
And it's not like the Falcons were caught off guard. Weddle was simply too good to beat, no matter where he lined up.
"It wasn't any secret that he was going to run the football when he came in the game," said DeBerry, whose Falcons need to win at UNLV and TCU to avoid a third straight losing season for the first time in his 23 years at the academy.
And it wasn't surprising that Weddle would come up with the big plays on defense.
After scoring on a 6-yard run in the first quarter, Weddle shed a blocker and stuffed Chad Hall at the Utah 14. Hall otherwise had a clear path to the first-down marker, if not the end zone.
"My job is to run to the pitch and shed blocks," Weddle said. "That play, I just got lucky and tripped him up."
Afterward, Zach Sasser was wide left on a 35-yard field goal. On Air Force's next possession Sasser missed again from 34 yards, leaving the Utes with a 7-0 halftime lead.
Weddle's 4-yard touchdown scamper with 9:46 remaining broke a 7-7 tie after Shaun Carney had tossed a 6-yard touchdown pass to Victor Thompson at 12:13.
Carney's 1-yard keeper with 4:07 tied it, and the Utes got the ball back at their 20 with 3:55 remaining. Weddle gained 10 yards on two carries on the winning drive.
Of course, the last person to hold the ball for the Utes was Weddle.
"I had total confidence in Louie that he was going to get it done," Weddle said. "I just had to get it down for him and not mess it up."
Like the rest of his night, Weddle was perfect.
"Any way to help the team," he said.
Weddle saw his most extensive action of the season on offense. His 73-yard performance was the best for any Utah rusher this season.
"He's the guy we feel like we need to get the ball too. Any situation, put Eric in," Utah quarterback Brett Ratliff said. "When he's doing that well, it's hard not to get him the ball.
"It's a joy watching him play defense, watching how well he reads offenses and makes big plays. But it's nice to have him come over to the offensive side and make plays for us too," Ratliff said. "Even on special teams, he does it all. We have him everywhere."
Despite getting beat by Weddle on offense, defense and special teams, DeBerry felt good about his team, which in all likelihood saw its bowl hopes fade to black.
"I'm very proud of our football team," DeBerry said. "They fought their guts out. The people in this community ought to feel good about the type of young men representing us in our Air Force and positions of leadership in this country. Because those guys, despite what the scoreboard says, they're not losers. They're warriors and they're winners, and I'll go to my grave saying that."
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||12-18||9-16|
|4th Down Conversions||0-1||0-0|
|TD||4:29||ERIC WEDDLE 6 YD RUN (LOUIE SAKODA KICK)|
Drive info: 8 plays, 48 yards.
|TD||12:13||VIC THOMPSON 6 YD PASS FROM SHAUN CARNEY (ZACH SASSER KICK)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 67 yards.
|TD||9:46||ERIC WEDDLE 4 YD RUN (LOUIE SAKODA KICK)|
Drive info: 5 plays, 63 yards.
|TD||4:07||SHAUN CARNEY 1 YD RUN (ZACH SASSER KICK)|
Drive info: 14 plays, 80 yards.
|FG||0:00||LOUIE SAKODA 37 YD FG|
Drive info: 13 plays, 60 yards.