OGDEN — After setting a school record in Saturday’s loss to McNeese State, Weber State junior Tony Epperson now leads the nation in punting. The Park City native is averaging 48.0 yards per punt, the best in the country.
Saturday, Epperson set a Weber State single-game school record with an average of 55.0 yards per punt. He totaled eight punts for 440 yards on the day. He recorded two punts of more than 70 yards in the Wildcats’ home loss.
After three games this season Epperson has recorded 26 punts for 1,248 yards, for the average of 48 per punt, which is the best in the nation by nearly three yards per punt. He has recorded four punts of more than 70 yards, including a 74-yard punt at BYU, the seventh best in school history.
Epperson also is second on the Wildcat team in tackles with 19 and has one interception, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble on the year.
The Wildcats host their annual homecoming game this Saturday at 6 p.m. against ninth-ranked Eastern Washington.
• UTAH SAFETY BLECHEN RETURNING AFTER 3-GAME SUSPENSION: Playmaking strong safety Brian Blechen is expected to be back in Utah’s starting lineup for Saturday’s Pac-12 opener at Arizona State after serving a three-game suspension for violating undisclosed team rules.
The 6-foot-2 junior is listed as the starter on the new depth chart and coach Kyle Whittingham said Monday he expects Blechen to play very well based on his effort the past month while working with the scout team.
Blechen had three interceptions and three forced fumbles last season, and blocked a field goal.
In his 2010 college debut, he intercepted a pass on the first play of overtime to set up Utah’s upset of Pittsburgh.
The Utes also expect running back John White back from an ankle injury and free safety Eric Rowe back from a strained hamstring.
• UTE PUNTER HONORED: Running back Stepfan Taylor of Stanford, defensive end Ben Gardner of Stanford and punter Tom Hackett of Utah have been named Pac-12 players of the week in football.
Taylor, a senior from Mansfield, Texas, recorded a career-high 213 all-purpose yards (153 rushing, 60 receiving) and two touchdowns in leading No. 21 Stanford to a 21-14 victory over No. 2 USC.
Gardner, a senior from Mequon, Wis., was instrumental in the Stanford defense holding USC to 26 total yards rushing, en route to the Cardinal’s 21-14 win.
Hackett, a freshman from Melbourne, Australia, who is playing football for the first time in America, showed off his ability to place the ball inside the 10-yard line during Utah’s 24-21 victory over No. 25 BYU. He punted three times and all three punts were downed inside the BYU 10-yard line.
Hackett, who averaged 35.7 yards a punt, was able to pin BYU at their own 5-yard line, and twice on its 8-yard line. The last came with 1:11 remaining in the fourth quarter when his 30-yard punt was downed at the Cougar 8-yard line.
• AGGIES DEFENSE AMONG NATION’S BEST: Following solid performances in each of its first three games of the 2012 season, Utah State’s ranks as one of the best defenses in the nation as it has outscored its opponents 41-0 in the first quarter and has not allowed a touchdown in the first-half.
On the season, Utah State leads the Western Athletic Conference and ranks 11th nationally in passing defense allowing 153.3 yards per game. USU also leads the WAC and ranks 14th nationally in pass efficiency defense (94.5), first in the WAC and 14th in the nation in total defense (256.0 ypg), first in the WAC and 15th in the nation in scoring defense (13.0 ppg), third in the WAC and 27th in the nation in rushing defense (102.7 ypg), and fourth in the WAC in 52nd in the nation in sacks allowed (1.7 pg). USU also ranks first in the WAC in opponent’s first downs per game (14.3) and first in opponent’s third-down conversions (.170).
Utah State’s defense has also done a great job of not allowing teams to score once it enters the red zone as its opponents are just 3-of-7 (.429) inside the 20 this season with one touchdown and two field goals, to go along with one missed field goal, one fumble, one interception and a loss on downs.
• LSU MISSES PRACTICE BECAUSE OF BOMB THREAT: A bomb threat at LSU that led university officials to evacuate the entire campus wound up forcing Les Miles to cancel a game-week practice for the second time in a month.
The second-ranked Tigers were permitted to return to campus and the football operations building Monday evening in Baton Rouge, but Miles elected to hold only meetings and film sessions of last Saturday night’s 63-14 victory over Idaho.
One practice also was canceled several days before LSU’s season opening win over North Texas because of Hurricane Isaac.
“These are the first two practices I’ve lost,” said Miles, who is in his 12th season as a head coach overall and eighth at LSU. “Our team will respond.”
Miles is accustomed to disruptions, having dealt with Hurricanes Katrina in 2005 and Gustav in 2008.
The threat was called in to the university late Monday morning, six days before LSU opens its SEC schedule at Auburn on Saturday.
• TULANE’S WALKER TO BE MOVED WHILE THERAPY PROCEEDS: Tulane officials say seriously injured football player Devon Walker will be moved to a new facility within the next two days as he continues therapy for his fractured spine.
Walker has been in St. Francis Hospital since he was injured during the Tulane-Tulsa game on Sept. 8. Tulane spokesman Roger Dunaway says Walker is “alert and actively participating in respiratory and other therapies that are part of his recovery.”
Dunaway says Walker’s family wants the name and location of the facility to which he will be moved to remain confidential, as well as his health status.