After seven losses in a row, Weber State University’s football team got its first win of the season over the weekend. The win came thanks to a big stop on an attempted two-point conversion by Southern Utah University.
After scoring a touchdown to get within two points, the Thunderbirds went for two, in hopes of sending the game to overtime. But the Wildcat defense held strong and came away with a 24-22 victory in Cedar City on Saturday.
“I’m so happy for the kids and how hard they have worked,” said WSU Head Coach Jody Sears. “We made some big stops when we needed to today and it was a whole team effort. All season long, the team has kept working hard and has not given up.”
WSU was led by senior quarterback Mike Hoke in the Wildcats’ first win of the season. He finished the day with 206 yards passing and one touchdown.
“We won and it felt good,” Hoke said. “I forgot what that feels like.”
On WSU’s third possession of the game, Hoke got the offense moving, connecting with Erik Walker on back-to-back passes to take the ball past midfield. After getting the passing game going, C.J. Tuckett and Kris Parham got the ball into the red zone with two strong runs.
The Wildcats converted that drive for their first points of the game, early in the second quarter. Brian Jankowski pulled in a short pass to take the ball to SUU’s four-yard line, bringing up fourth down for WSU. The Wildcats elected to go for it, and Tuckett ran up the left side for a touchdown, capping a 15-play drive.
Late in the second quarter, Hoke set up WSU’s second touchdown of the game. From about 30 yards out, he faked a handoff, then took off down the left side of the field. He stepped out of bounds inside the five-yard line. On the next play, he ran the ball up the middle for WSU’s second touchdown of the game.
The WSU defense played well, holding the Thunderbirds to less than 100 yards of total offense in the first half. The Wildcats took a 14-3 lead into the break; it was WSU’s largest halftime lead of the season.
After a slow first half for SUU, it came out firing on its first possession of the third quarter. The Thunderbirds drove down the field and kicked a field goal to pull within eight points of WSU.
The Wildcats struck back quickly on the first play from scrimmage. Hoke threw a screen pass to Xavian Johnson at the 25-yard line. Johnson raced down the sideline and cut upfield for a 75-yard touchdown.
“It feels great, and it’s a lot of weight off our shoulders,” Johnson said. “Everything finally clicked for us today on offense and defense, and we all did what we were supposed to do.”
On SUU’s next possession, the Thunderbirds looked as if they’d scored a touchdown, but had the play called back due to a penalty. SUU settled on their third field goal of the game.
With just more than eight minutes left in the game, SUU scored its first touchdown of the game. Brad Sorenson completed a pass for SUU’s first touchdown of the game, cutting the score to 21-16.
With just less than four minutes left in the game, Shaun McClain hit a 46-yard field goal to extend WSU’s lead to eight points.
The Thunderbirds started their final drive of the game with a little less than three minutes left. SUU quickly drove down the field and Griff McNabb scored a touchdown with 59 seconds remaining. McNabb caught a short pass and dove into the end zone.
SUU had to attempt a two-point conversion, looking to tie the game. On the Thunderbirds’ conversion attempt, Sorenson snapped the ball and dropped back, but was unable to find an open receiver and was sacked by the WSU defense to close out the game for WSU.
The Wildcats now have a bye week, and will be in action again in two weeks when they take on the University of Montana at home.