If the end of Weber State’s Homecoming loss to Eastern Washington last Saturday was shocking similar to last season’s contest with the Eagles, the beginning was disturbingly familiar to the Wildcats as well.
Despite moving the ball more effectively, Weber State still found itself on the wrong side of a lopsided halftime score.
WSU has trailed at the break this season by scores of 24-3 (Fresno State), 21-0 (BYU), 14-0 (McNeese State) and 20-3 (Eastern Washington).
Add it up to a combined 79-6 deficit in first halves — Weber State has not scored a first-half touchdown yet or even scored a first-quarter point through four games.
That nearly changed Saturday when the Wildcats went for it on fourth-and-two from the Eastern Washington 25. Weber State quarterback Mike Hoke threw deep, only to see the ball knocked away from tight end Brian Jankowski at the goal line.
The Wildcats threatened again on their next drive, marching to the EWU 22, where Hoke fumbled as he was hit from behind by T.J. Lee.
Setting aside missed opportunities that might have changed the complexion of Saturday’s game, third quarters are a better story for Weber State this season.
WSU holds a 36-26 advantage over opponents in third quarters. The Wildcats scored 16 points in the third quarter of Saturday’s 32-26 loss to Eastern Washington, but with an 0-4 record, second-half improvements and rallies haven’t been enough.
Junior linebacker and team captain Anthony Morales had a career-high 16 tackles and said the Wildcats will try to take encouragement from closing the gap with Eastern Washington and having a shot to win late.
“This is the No. 9 team in the country,” he said Saturday. “That’s a really good team out there, defending national champs two years ago, so they play some good ball. We’ve proved that we can play with anybody, just like we have in these past four games, but it’s about being consistent, doing the little things right every play. I know we can beat anybody we play, we’ve just got to keep working hard. It’s the little things. Every play counts.”
Weber State interim coach Jody Sears said he was most encouraged by the Wildcats’ demeanor at halftime, even down 20-3.
“I really like the way our leaders took control of that locker room at halftime,” Sears said. “It was awesome, absolutely awesome. I don’t know that I said maybe five or six words. The captains and leaders took control of that thing. It was all about the attitude, it was all about the energy.
“I’m really pleased with the way they reacted, flushed that first half and began trusting.”
Former WSU quarterback Jamie Martin remains Weber State’s only winner of the Walter Payton Trophy, given annually to the top offensive player at the FCS level (formerly Division I-AA).
Martin won the award in 1991, the same year he set an FCS single-game record by throwing for 624 yards against Idaho State.
That record fell last Saturday as Old Dominion quarterback Taylor Heinicke smashed it by over 100 yards last Saturday, throwing for 730 yards in a 64-61 shootout win over New Hampshire to set a Division I record (FBS and FCS combined).
Amazingly, that’s not even the top performance in the NCAA this season — Sam Durley of Division III Eureka (Ill.) College threw for 736 yards in a game.
Weber State’s Wildcat Club luncheon will be held today at noon at the Ogden Marriott Hotel on 24th Street. The luncheons are open to the public; cost is $10 per person. For more information, call the Wildcat Club at 801-626-6576 or visit weberstatesports.com.
Roy Burton covers Weber State sports for the Standard-Examiner. Follow @RoyBurton on Twitter, read more about the Wildcats at blogs.standard.net/wsu-sports-blog or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.