After a strong start to the game, the Weber State University football team wasn’t able to pull a win over Southern Utah University, losing 35-28 at Stewart Stadium on Saturday.
Head Coach Ron McBride said the team was hurt in the second half by penalties and breaks that went against WSU.
“That’s football,” McBride said. “They made the plays they had to make, and we gave some stuff away.”
The Thunderbirds scored the first points of the game early in the second quarter thanks to Colton Cook’s field goal, giving SUU a 3-0 lead.
Tanner Hinds tried to establish a strong running attack for WSU in the second quarter, but WSU was hampered by mental errors, committing multiple penalties during the first half.
Late in the second quarter, WSU got their first points of the game. On a drive that featured Hinds, Tyrell Francisco set up the WSU score. Hoke snapped the ball and scrambled to the right, avoiding SUU pressure before finding Francisco who took the ball to the one-yard line.
Erik Walker gave WSU the lead on a five-yard pass from Hoke. Walker caught the ball in the corner of the end zone to put the Wildcats up 7-3 late in the second quarter.
WSU tried to extend its lead before the half, embarking on a late drive. It started on its own 41 yard line after SUU failed to convert on fourth down and moved the ball down into SUU territory thanks to a scramble by Hoke. Two plays later, Hoke found Shaydon Kehano open on the left side of the field. Kehano took the ball down to the three-yard line, and on the next play, Hoke scrambled into the end zone to extend the WSU lead before the half.
While the first half started out slowly, the second half began quickly with each team scoring a touchdown in the first four minutes of the third quarter.
SUU came out strong in the second half, driving down the field on its first possession of the half. Brad Sorenson connected with Fatu Mala on a 22-yard pass to take the ball to the WSU two-yard line. SUU would score on the next play to make it a 14-10 game.
The Wildcats answered back on their first possession of the half. Booker broke a 42-yard run to get things started for WSU. He went through a hole in the middle of the line, cut to the right, eluded three would-be tacklers and took the ball into SUU territory. Hinds capped off the drive with a five-yard touchdown run.
Following the flow of the third quarter, SUU answered the Wildcats touchdown with one of its own. The Thunderbirds got good field position following a bad WSU punt, and drove down the field, capping it off with a pass to Austin Minifee to cut the Wildcats lead to 21-17.
In a weird passage of play, SUU cut the lead to two points. Sorenson fumbled the snap, ran backwards to midfield and threw the ball downfield. The pass was intercepted by Jarret Gooden, who was tackled in the end zone and called for a safety, making the score 21-19.
Things got worse for WSU, which soon found itself trailing for the first time since the first quarter. Kaden Carli blocked a punt for SUU, which recovered the ball on the two-yard line. Minifee ran the ball into the end zone, giving SUU a 27-21 lead.
SUU scored again, and extended its lead to 35-21 and looked as if it might close the game. Following the kickoff, Hoke engineered a quick drive for WSU, connecting on passes to Kehano, Xavian Johnson, and Booker. Booker capped off the drive with a four-yard run to cut the SUU lead to seven points.
The Wildcats had an opportunity to tie the game with 1 minute, 34 seconds left in the game and took over at its own four-yard line with no timeouts. The Wildcats were unable to move the ball down the field and lost 35-28.
Next week, WSU will head to Montana, where it will face-off against the University of Montana. The Wildcats need to win the remainder of their games in order to have a chance at making the playoffs. Quarterback Mike Hoke said that the loss against SUU will help motivate the team for the remainder of the year.
“We’ve got to be more hungry now,” Hoke said. “If we lose one of the next games there’s no playoff hopes. . . We have to win out now to go to the playoffs.”