Last season, when Weber State University took on Eastern Washington University, the game was decided on the final drive when Mike Hoke fumbled the ball late in the game.
This season, with the game in the balance, Hoke once again lost the ball on the Wildcats’ final drive. It was stripped by EWU’s Jerry Ceja at midfield to end the Wildcats’ final drive. WSU fell to the ninth-ranked Eagles, 32-26.
After a slow first half, the Wildcats challenged EWU in the second half. Head Coach Jody Sears said he loved seeing the passion and leadership from his team during halftime.
“I really liked the way our leaders took control of the locker room at halftime. It was awesome, absolutely awesome. I don’t know if I said five, maybe six words. The captains and the leaders took control of that. It was all about their attitude and energy.”
On the Eagles’ first possession, they drove into WSU’s territory, getting inside the red zone when freshman quarterback Vernon Adams connected with Greg Herd to take the ball down to the WSU six-yard line. On the next play, Jordan Talley ran the ball in for the first touchdown of the game.
WSU’s Hoke played well throughout the first half, passing for 65 yards in the half, completing 7-13 passes, but WSU was hurt throughout the half by penalties and dropped passes. Brian Jankowski dropped two key passes during the first half, one around midfield that would have given the Wildcats a first down, and one on the goal line on fourth down.
Down by 17, the Wildcats broke out a trick play halfway through the second quarter. Hoke snapped the ball and pitched it to Parham; Parham then threw a 33-yard pass to Xavian Johnson, taking the ball into EWU’s half of the field. The trick play helped WSU get its first points of the game. Sean McClain connected on a 44-yard field goal to cut EWU’s lead to 14 points.
The Wildcats went into the half down by 17 points. WSU has yet to score a first-half touchdown this season and has been outscored 79-6 in the first half.
The Wildcats started the second half out strong defensively and came up with an interception on EWU’s first drive of the half. On third down, Kyle Padron, in for his first drive of the game, was picked off by Kela Marciel near midfield. Marciel made a diving play to get the interception.
“It was like last week,” said WSU defensive captain Anthony Morales. “We started off hot in the third quarter. We had the momentum. We were just too inconsistent tonight. I think that’s been the story of this season so far.”
Hoke connected with Lanny Papanikolas in the end zone for a 28-yard touchdown. WSU then went for a two-point conversion, and Jarret Gooden ran the ball in to make it 20-11 early in the third quarter.
The Wildcats’ defense made a big stop late in the third quarter. After a 49-yard pass by Padron, the Eagles had the ball at the 12-yard line, but the Wildcats held them to a field goal to keep them in the game.
After another Eagle touchdown, Johnson came up with another big play to give WSU a chance. Hoke hit Johnson on a screen pass, and the speedy sophomore ran for 71 yards. Two plays later, the Wildcats scored on a short run. WSU once again completed the two-point conversion to cut the Eagle lead to 10 at the end of the third quarter.
“We needed a big play,” Johnson said. “We needed to get the momentum started. I had to make something happen. I caught the ball and saw Titan (blocking), and before you know it, I was out of the gates.”
After the Wildcat touchdown, the Eagles embarked on methodical drive, which they racked up five first downs, and controlled the ball for more than half of the fourth quarter. The Eagles hit a field goal to extend their lead to 13 points with just more than six minutes remaining.
WSU scored another touchdown when Hoke found Erik Walker in the end zone to cut the EWU lead to six points, with just less than four minutes remaining.
The Wildcat defense held strong, giving them one more chance. WSU took over on its 14-yard line with 1:49 left in the game and no timeouts. The Wildcats converted a third down attempt and a fourth down attempt to keep the final drive alive, but then fumbled the ball to close out the game.