PROVO — The Cougars were the stronger cats on Saturday as BYU defeated Weber State 45-13 at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
A last-minute touchdown made the final score look a little better, but Wildcats coach Jody Sears felt like his team improved from Week 1 even if the end result against a Football Bowl Subdivision program was very similar.
Weber State is 3-48 against FBS teams in its 50 years of Division I football.
“Especially that first half we played a lot better,” Sears said, particularly on defense. “We were keying, we were taking care of our assignments, we were a lot more technique-sound, which was good, I was really wanting to see that because we spent a lot of time this week working on that, playing fundamental ball. Later in the game, I thought we got tired, thought we kind of ran out of gas by that last 10 minutes or so.”
Weber State (0-2) will collect a $375,000 paycheck from BYU (2-0) for their first meeting since 1979 and a misleading attendance record for the largest crowd to ever see a Wildcats football game. There were 60,314 tickets sold, but the actual number of fans in the stands was much lower as the Cougars cruised to an expected victory over the Football Championship Subdivision-level Wildcats.
BYU quarterback Riley Nelson set a career-high for passing yards in a half with 244 yards and a touchdown before the break and did not make an appearance in the second half with back spasms. Cody Hoffman caught seven passes for 115 yards, including a 37-yard touchdown pass to get the Cougars started.
“I think we handled the game and the week maturely,” BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “We were very workman-like and methodical and we had a nice balance offensively between running and scoring. I thought we started the game slowly in the first quarter but then it picked up as the game went on.”
Weber State defensive back/punter Tony Epperson was a surprise star in the loss, leading the Wildcats with 10 tackles, an interception, a fumble recovery, while his 50.7 yards per punt average was the fourth-best single game average in Weber State history. He had two punts over 70 yards, including one for 74 yards, the seventh-longest in school history.
Epperson even got one off with his left foot for 33 yards to salvage something from a bad snap.
“We improved on a lot of things we didn’t do well last week, but with that said, there’s still a lot of room for improvement,” Epperson said.
Twelve Cougars caught passes and BYU outgained Weber State 532 yards to 254, the eighth consecutive opponent its defense has held under 300 yards.
For the second time in the first two weeks of the season, Weber State trailed by a score of 21-0, but unlike their season opener Fresno State, the Wildcats didn’t even muster even a field goal in the half.
C.J. Tuckett, the great-nephew of former BYU athletic director Glen Tuckett, rushed for 28 yards on his first carry in Provo and finished with 80 yards on 12 carries, an average of 6.7 yards per try.
“It was definitely a lot of fun. I’ve always heard (about) BYU, looked up to this place and it was a lot of fun to have the opportunity to play someone as high quality as BYU,” Tuckett said.
The Wildcats were on track to be very close to their average score of 47-9 in their previous two meetings against the Cougars before WSU backup quarterback Jordan Adamczyk found Chase Nakamura for a 39-yard gain in the final minute and Kris Parham finished the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run.
BYU backup quarterbacks James Lark and Taysom Hill went the entire second half for the Cougars. Hill rushed for two short-yardage scores and Lark threw one touchdown pass and rushed for another one in mop-up work.
The Wildcats finally got on the board in the third quarter on a nine play, 75-yard drive, helped by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on BYU. Josh Booker, who rushed for 65 yards on 10 carries, punched in a 1-yard scoring run.
Weber State quarterback Mike Hoke completed 13-of-26 passes for just 91 yards without an interception, but was sacked six times by BYU, including twice by Spencer Hadley.
Eight Wildcats caught passes but WSU only gained 139 yards through the air as Nakamura’s 39-yarder made him Weber State’s leading receiver.
Weber State got its last-minute touchdown at the end of the game, but they nearly had to do penance for a Hail Mary try at the end of the half as Kyle Van Noy blindsided Hoke as he wound up to throw. Uona Kaveinga recovered and nearly returned it for a score before he was tripped up at the 15-yard line as time expired in the half.
Weber State plays its first FCS game of the season Saturday at home against McNeese State, while BYU will take on the University of Utah in the red-blue rivalry game.
• NOTES: Weber State linebacker Luke King was helped off the field with a strained shoulder late in the third quarter. ... Weber State’s football, men’s and women’s basketball, soccer and volleyball programs are a combined 1-76 versus the Cougars in Provo.
BYU 45, Weber St. 13
At Lavell Edwards Stadium
Weber St. 0 0 6 7 — 13
BYU 7 14 10 14 — 45
BYU—Hoffman 37 pass from Nelson (Stephenson kick), 3:19.
BYU—T.Hill 2 run (Stephenson kick), 13:12.
BYU—Alisa 8 run (Stephenson kick), 4:15.
BYU—Friel 2 pass from Lark (Stephenson kick), 8:42.
Web—Booker 1 run (kick blocked), 4:49.
BYU—FG Stephenson 33, :12.
BYU—Lark 6 run (Stephenson kick), 13:10.
BYU—T.Hill 1 run (Stephenson kick), 3:34.
Web—Parham 1 run (McClain kick), :50.
First downs 15 26
Rushes-yards 43-115 37-225
Passing 139 307
Comp-Att-Int 15-28-0 26-42-1
Return Yards 32 70
Punts-Avg. 10-50.7 5-53.2
Fumbles-Lost 3-2 1-1
Penalties-Yards 6-45 6-69
Time of Possession 31:50 28:10
Rushing—Weber St., Tuckett 12-80, Booker 10-64, Parham 5-15, Adamczyk 1-3, Clemente 1-(minus 1), Epperson 1-(minus 8), Hoke 13-(minus 38). BYU, Falslev 1-53, Alisa 11-53, Williams 3-32, T.Hill 6-27, Nelson 3-19, Foote 5-16, Kuresa 2-7, Pritchard 3-7, Lark 1-6, Lasike 1-6, Team 1-(minus 1).
Passing—Weber St., Hoke 13-26-0-91, Adamczyk 2-2-0-48. BYU, Nelson 18-29-1-244, Lark 7-10-0-45, T.Hill 1-3-0-18.
Receiving—Weber St., Clemente 4-25, Booker 2-17, X.Johnson 2-14, Tolutau 2-14, Walker 2-11, Nakamura 1-39, Kehano 1-10, Parham 1-9. BYU, Hoffman 7-115, Kuresa 4-51, Friel 4-30, Foote 2-16, Alisa 2-8, Wilson 1-32, Mahina 1-18, Holt 1-13, Ridley 1-9, Falslev 1-6, Ma.Mathews 1-6, Williams 1-3.