Ogden • The Weber State Wildcats were stuck in molasses. Passes were dropped. Rush plays went close to nowhere. Even a promising sequence late in the third quarter, one that felt like a swing in momentum, turned out to be for naught.

And although the Wildcats scratched, clawed and growled for the entire night, they came up short in a 23-18 loss to the Maine Black Bears on Friday in the FCS quarterfinals.

“A lot of us seniors had banked on going to the national championship,” linebacker LeGrand Toia said. “Just to come that close to it, it hurts.”

Every time the Wildcats mustered an ounce of momentum, the Black Bears swiped it away. Weber State pulled to within two points in the third quarter only for Maine to answer with a 45-yard touchdown and a field late in the fourth.

The Wildcats scored with one just second left in the fourth quarter to provide the final score.

Defense ruled the night for both teams. WSU and Maine combined for 20 punts and went only 8 of 34 on third downs. The Black Bears held Weber State to minus-1 rushing yards and intercepted the Wildcats on three straight possessions in the fourth quarter to seal the game.

“We came out with intensity and violence from the start,” said Maine senior linebacker Sterling Sheffield, who laughed in disbelief when he learned how many rushing yards his team allowed the Wildcats.

The Black Bears were the ones who were able to make plays on offense when they needed to. Although Weber State took its only lead of the game with a 37-yard field goal from Trey Tuttle, Maine answered with two touchdowns before Tuttle covered a 45-yarder in the third quarter.

On fourth-and-12 late in the third, Wildcats quarterback Jake Constantine scrambled away from the pocket and avoided a tackle. He threw a Hail Mary-type pass to Devon Cooley, who caught the ball between two defenders and appeared come down with it.

But it also looked like Black Bears defensive back Jeffrey DeVaughn intercepted the pass, as he stood up holding the ball after Cooley fell to the ground. The referees called an interception, but a review overturned that call and granted the TD to Weber State, making Maine’s lead 14-12 going into the last frame.

Weber State punted twice before it started throwing interceptions.

“We had a lot of opportunities and let some things slip away,” Wildcats coach Jay Hill said. “[Maine’s] players made critical plays when they needed to.”

Hill pointed to Maine’s three interceptions late in the game as the “biggest part of this game.” The final interception came on first-and-10 just 33 yards from a touchdown and down only eight points. The Black Bears made a field goal on the subsequent drive.

“We did not run the ball effectively at all,” Hill said. “That puts you in a lot of long-distance third downs and that’s not a recipe for success.”

Maine also kept Constantine at bay in key moments. The Black Bears finished the game with three sacks for a loss of 28 total yards.

Neither team managed to do much of anything in the first quarter. They mustered only 101 yards combined, and both the Wildcats and Black Bears punted three times apiece. The teams combined for 761 punting yards and 557 yards of total offense.