It takes four quarters to make a buck — and four quarters to win a football game.
Weber State made change in the first half Saturday against Cal Poly but still came up a dollar short against the undefeated Mustangs.
The winless Wildcats (0-6, 0-3 Big Sky) played easily their best first half of the season but couldn’t close the deal against No. 20 Cal Poly (5-0, 3-0), which will likely move up again in the FCS Top 25 poll this week.
For the second straight week, the Wildcats outgained an opponent in total yards, only to come up short on the scoreboard.
Keyed by a defensive lineman returning a kind-of wacky interception 58 yards for a score, Cal Poly scored 24 consecutive second-half points to ride out of Ogden with the 45-23 victory on Saturday.
Even so, Weber State coach Jody Sears saw progress from his team. The Wildcats, who had scored a grand total of 12 points in first halves all season, trailed 14-13 at halftime and held a 20-13 advantage in the third quarter.
“For three quarters, we were in it. I’m proud of the way the guys started the game. They came out, they executed, great attitude, great energy, had some confidence, made some plays, got some confidence with them. We put some points on the board,” Sears said. “That was encouraging. We’ve just got to take these little small victories and keep building on them. We’re not going to make excuses for that fourth quarter. We’re not going cry and whine about it, kick rocks and mope, ‘Woe is me.’ We’ve got to take these small victories and build on it, keep moving forward.”
Getting a full four quarters requires consistency on the field and in coaching, Sears said.
Cal Poly coach Tim Walsh was gracious in victory and complimentary of Weber State quarterback Mike Hoke, who completed 22 of 39 passes for 291 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 51 yards in the loss.
“They had a good offensive plan and that quarterback, that guy’s legit,” Walsh said. “He did a great job of running the run game part of the offense, and he threw the ball particularly well, too.
“They could win a lot of games. They could win four or five games in this conference, easy.”
It hasn’t been easy so far. Weber State, which has five games left on the schedule, travels to face Sacramento State this Saturday.
Weber State got its first points in a first quarter this season on a pair of Shaun McClain field goals, but touchdowns might have changed the complexion of the game. The Wildcats went on a 15-play, 70-yard drive on their first possession and had first and goal from the Cal Poly 9 before settling for three points.
An 11-play, 46-yard drive on the next possession showed Weber State could move the ball on the Mustangs’ highly rated defense, but that too ended in a field goal, a career-long 46-yard kick by McClain.
McClain missed a 50-yard field goal try at the end of the first half but added a 25-yarder in the fourth quarter for a total of three in the game, one more than his previous total for the season.
Punter/safety Tony Epperson, who was named Weber State’s Utah National Guard Wildcat Soldier for the month of September, tore his MCL during the third quarter and may be out for four to six weeks — in other words, the rest of the season.
The junior from Park City entered the game as the nation’s leading punter (48.0 yards per punt) and WSU’s top tackler. He did not attempt a punt, though he threw a pass — just incomplete — on a fake punt attempt in the second quarter.
Tyler McNannay, a redshirt freshman transfer from Washington State, replaced Epperson in the second half and punted twice for an average of 42 yards.
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 email@example.com.