OGDEN — A pair of turnovers from Weber State and a few big Northern Arizona pass plays had the No. 4 Wildcats trailing 21-14 at halftime Saturday at Stewart Stadium.
But Weber’s run game had other ideas. Specifically, Josh Davis.
Davis rushed 34 times for 328 yards and four touchdowns, breaking Weber State’s single-game rushing record, and the Wildcats romped after halftime to a 51-28 win.
Davis’ mark is the fifth-most rushing yards in Big Sky history and the most by any FCS player in the country this season.
Kris Jackson added 111 rushing yards on 22 carries, including three touchdowns, as the Wildcats (5-2, 3-0 Big Sky) rushed for 443 yards as a team (third most in school history) and racked up 612 total yards of offense.
The strong run game helped Weber State withstand the conditions as rain picked up steadily through the first half to a substantial rainfall after halftime.
Davis said he didn’t know he was approaching or breaking the school record.
“I was just running. I had a great line up there blocking for me,” Davis said. “Clay Moss was blocking his a — off. Our receivers were blocking good and I was just going off of them.”
Through Game 7, though, it might be hard to think about history.
“It’s cool, but it doesn’t mean anything. It’s just another game. We go to UC Davis coming up next, so I’m focused on that,” Davis said.
Davis opened the game by rushing 21 yards and then 54, the latter for a touchdown, and Weber State led 7-0 less than one minute into the contest.
But, despite racking up 330 yards of offense in the first half, WSU would find itself down at halftime.
With a Davis 44-yard TD in between, NAU quarterback Case Cookus roped touchdown passes of 63 and 94 yards to Stacy Chukwumezie to put the Lumberjacks (3-4, 1-2) up 21-14 at halftime.
The first came on a skinny post where a Weber defensive back slipped off the tackle and Chukwumezie took off. The second came with just 34 seconds left in the half when Chukwumezie put a double move on a WSU defender and Cookus lofted a long ball over the top and up the sideline.
“We just didn’t make tackles and gave up stuff we shouldn’t give up in those situations, so that was a little bit of a disappointment,” WSU head coach Jay Hill said.
That appeared to put Weber State in peril of losing to NAU as a top-10 team in consecutive seasons as the Lumberjacks received the kickoff to open the second half.
But the WSU defense blew up a run play on second down and chased Cookus into a throwaway on third down in that possession.
Davis ripped a 21-yard rush and Jake Constantine threw 17 yards to Devon Cooley, which set up a 32-yard Trey Tuttle field goal to make it 21-17.
That’s when Weber State began to even out the turnover margin. On the third play of NAU’s next drive, Preston Smith missiled in from the safety spot on a third-and-1 rush and forced Joe Logan into a fumble. Jayden Palauni recovered and WSU had a 34-yard field.
A Jackson 21-yard rush set up a 3-yard touchdown run for Davis, who was met at the line of scrimmage but slipped through and dove to the end zone. Weber State had a 24-21 lead, which it would not give up.
Weber grabbed another defensive stop when it again chased Cookus to the sideline and into a throwaway on third down.
A 21-yard Davis rush set up an eventual 8-yard TD run for Jackson and Weber led 30-21 with 2:49 left in the third quarter.
Davis was up to 258 rushing yards at that point. He said the relentless attack broke NAU’s spirit, which was the talk at halftime.
“We’ve just got to keep pounding them. Run through ‘em. That’s all,” Davis said. “Once you saw us running through them, they stopped playing. They stopped hitting us ... and, pretty much, that was the game.”
Hill said he was “absolutely elated” with how his team responded after halftime and implemented adjustments.
Cookus got one more big play, a 44-yard scoring toss to Hendrix Johnson, to make it 30-28 just 10 seconds into the fourth quarter. But Weber’s defense was in Cookus’ face the rest of the night.
Davis broke the school record, previously 289 rushing yards by CJ Tuckett in 2012, on a 6-yard rush on the next drive. Davis then gained 2 yards on a fourth-and-2 at the NAU 7, setting up Jackson for a 5-yard TD run and a 37-28 lead.
Eddie Heckard evened the turnover battle two plays later, leveling Cookus on a corner blitz and forcing a fumble. Linebacker Noah Vaea recovered and WSU put the game away.
Davis rushed twice — once for 12 yards, then a score from 1 yard out — to cross 300 yards and put Weber up 44-28.
On the next series, Cookus threw incomplete on successive third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 plays.
Jackson gashed NAU again on a 27-yard TD run four plays later to bury the Lumberjacks with the final score.
“In a game like that, when there’s crazy rain and weather, I thought we handled it about as good as you can,” Hill said.
Constantine, who started at quarterback for the fourth time this season, threw 16 of 28 for 169 yards and one interception. He split snaps with freshman Kylan Weisser in the first quarter, then Constantine led the offense from there with Weisser making a couple more appearances in the second half.
David Ames caught five balls for 59 yards and Cooley had four for 53 to lead Weber receivers.
Cookus finished throwing 20 of 34 for 359 yards and four touchdowns. He was sacked three times, but none until Heckard’s big strip sack.
“Case Cookus is as good as any quarterback you’re going to face in FCS football. That guy’s big time and he made some huge plays in the first half,” Hill said.
George Tarlas recorded two sacks for WSU’s defense, on consecutive plays after Weber grabbed the 51-28 lead, to help stuff NAU’s final drive and set the Lumberjacks back to just 16 rushing yards in the game.
“You win games by being able to run the ball and make the other team one-dimensional. If they’ve got to chuck it at the end of the game to stay in it, usually you’re in a pretty good spot,” Hill said. “I think that played out.
“Now, do we have a lot to clean up in some coverage stuff? Absolutely. We’ll continue to work that young secondary but the key right now is to find ways to win.”
Heckard added two tackles for loss.
Weber State next plays at UC Davis on Oct. 26. The Aggies were 3-4 entering Saturday and played at Southern Utah late.