To Head Coach Ron McBride, 34-31 is a special score.
As the coach
of the University of Utah, he twice beat Brigham Young University by that score, and on Saturday, in his final game as a coach, Weber State University knocked off Northern Arizona University by the same score.
McBride said the significance of the score wasn’t something he realized at first.
“Brian Rolle was over on the sideline,” McBride said, “and he came over to me and said, ‘If you score here and get the extra point, do you know what the score’s going to be? 34-31.’ I said, ‘You’ve got to be s—— me.’ He said, ‘It’s going to happen.’”
In a cold and snowy game, WSU running back C.J. Tuckett heated up the WSU offense, rushing for the 254 and 407 all-purpose yards, which is the most in school history in WSU’s 34-31 victory over Northern Arizona University.
Tuckett said that, this year, he has been waiting for his chance to show what he can do on the field, and felt lucky to get that opportunity.
“I’ve just been waiting for my chance all season,” Tuckett said. “I was able to get the opportunity and capitalize on it.”
McBride said he enjoyed playing in the snowy weather.
“I like playing in this weather,” McBride said. “It actually got too nice for me in the second half.”
On the first play from scrimmage, Tuckett broke a 49-yard run down the right side of the field. A few plays later, Tuckett scampered in for the first touchdown of the game. He took the ball up the middle and gave the Wildcats the early 6-0 lead after the point-after attempt was blocked.
Following the touchdown, it was WSU’s defense time to shine. After bringing up fourth down, Caldwell Taylor blocked the NAU punt. It was Taylor’s third blocked punt of the year.
The Lumberjacks took their first lead of the game at the end of the first half, on a catch in the back of the end zone by Dejzon Walker to make it 7-6.
Tuckett had a big first half for the Wildcats, racking up more than 100 yards early in the second quarter. Early in the second quarter, he broke a big run, which set up WSU’s second touchdown of the game. Hoke completed a pass to Chase Nakamura, who took the ball into the end zone to give the ’Cats the lead again, making it 12-7.
Halfway through the second half, play was stopped following an injury to WSU linebacker Mo Neal. Neal was injured after a play, when he collided with another WSU player. He remained motionless on the field for a long time. He was stretchered off of the field and taken to the hospital for further evaluation.
The Lumberjacks were able to drive down the field and score just before halftime. The drove down the field and converted a 28-yard field goal to make it 12-10, and it looked like that would be the score at the half, but WSU had something else in mind.
With 23 seconds left, Tuckett took the ball 45 yards for another WSU touchdown, making it 19-10 at the half. In the first half, Tuckett rushed for 159 yards and two touchdowns.
Late in the fourth quarter, NAU retook the lead on a nine-yard touchdown run by Bauman to make the score 31-27 with 1:36 remaining.
Tuckett started the WSU drive with a big kick return, taking the ball near midfield. Then Eric Shufford caught a pass across the middle and took it to the NAU 20-yard line, giving WSU a chance to win.
The Wildcats found pay dirt a few plays later. After a hand off to Tuckett, for a yard, Mike Hoke faked a handoff and walked into the end zone to retake the lead. With 26 seconds to go in the game, WSU had the 34-31 lead.
Hoke said the players had a good feeling as they drove down the field on their game-winning drive.
“It was real calm, actually,” Hoke said. “It was calmer than our previous two-minute drives . . . I think, as an offense, we wanted to get the ball back and have the opportunity to win.”
In a wild final play, NAU completed a pass, then completed a series of laterals, taking the ball down the field before they were finally stopped short of the goal line. The Wildcats held on to win a 34-31 nail-biter.
After the game, the team surrounded McBride on the field; Nick Webb said it was almost like something out of a movie.
“We wanted to carry him off the field,” Webb said. “It was almost like a Rudy moment.”