College football: Weber State wins first game, 24-22, at Southern Utah
Cedar City • That first win took long enough to come.
As Weber State lost game after game this season, Sundays became especially painful for quarterback Mike Hoke.
"The whole world seems like it's bad," Hoke said.
This Sunday, even if it rains, Hoke's world will be fine and rosy.
The Wildcats weren't perfect Saturday afternoon at Southern Utah's Eccles Coliseum, but they had enough good moments to hold off the Thunderbirds and claim their first win, a nervous 24-22 Big Sky Conference victory.
A career-tying 46-yard field goal from Shaun McClain in the final minutes proved to be the difference.
SUU answered immediately and scored to pull within two points with 54 seconds to play. However, in those final moments, Weber State foiled a Thunderbird two-point conversion and then recovered a desperate SUU onside kick to clinch its first "W" of the season.
"Relief," was how Weber State tight end Brian Jankowski described his post-game feelings. "It was unbelievable how long that onside kick took."
On the other side of the ball, Southern Utah (3-5, 2-3 Big Sky), fresh off an upset victory at Montana, could only despair at all the lost chances.
Three promising scoring drives eventually petered out and finished with field goals.
"They did a good job mixing up their defense," SUU quarterback Brad Sorensen said.
Weber State (1-7, 1-4) forced Sorensen to take short completions. WSU's patience eventually paid off with Thunderbird mistakes.
"We did really poor on third-down conversions," SUU coach Ed Lamb said. "The guys came storming back, and credit some fourth-down conversions for making it close there at end. Weber State made us earn everything we got."
Sorensen and SUU finally got into gear in the fourth quarter, gaining 155 yards through the air. But the T-Birds had too big a hill to climb, built on two scoring drives of more than 70 yards and a quick one-play 75-yard lightning bolt.
Hoke, who finished 16 of 28, despite a handful of drops, fired a sideline pass to Xavian Johnson, who avoided a tackle, cut to the middle and went untouched to give WSU a 21-9 lead early in the third quarter.
This week Lamb stressed to his team that Weber State was not to be taken lightly. Meanwhile, despite seven consecutive losses, there was no shortage of belief in Weber State's locker room.
"To me, it's been a long season only in the perspective of wins and losses," said WSU coach Jody Sears, whose birthday Sunday should be a bit sweeter.
"They've shown up and done everything we've asked them to do," Sears continued. "Now we've just got to stay the course and stick to the plan."
R Weber State halts an SUU two-point conversion and recovers an onside kick for its first victory of 2012.
• WSU rushes for 142 yards, with C.J. Tuckett tallying 93 yards and a touchdown.
• WSU's defense holds the Thunderbirds to 39 yards rushing and 3-of-12 third-down conversions.
Weber State 24,Southern Utah 22
Weber St. 0 14 7 3 24
SUU 3 0 6 13 22
SUU • FG Cook 46, 3:30.
Web • Tuckett 3 run (McClain kick), 12:35.
Web • Hoke 3 run (McClain kick), 1:19.
SUU • FG Cook 33, 11:20.
Web • X.Johnson 75 pass from Hoke (McClain kick), 11:05.
SUU • FG Cook 31, 6:49.
SUU • Moala 34 pass from Sorensen (Cook kick), 8:11.
Web • FG McClain 46, 3:43.
SUU • McNabb 7 pass from Sorensen (pass failed), :54.
Attendance • 3,811.
First downs 19 19
Rushes-yards 41-140 16-43
Passing 206 320
Comp-Att-Int 16-28-0 33-47-0
Return Yards 0 (-7)
Punts-Avg. 5-51.6 5-51.6
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 1-0
Penalties-yards 11-103 5-55
Time of Possession 31:28 28:32
Rushing • Weber St., Tuckett 17-90, Hoke 16-56, Parham 5-21,
Team 3-(minus 27). S. Utah, Crawford-Harris 8-26, Sorensen 7-13,
Passing • Weber St., Hoke 16-28-0-206. S. Utah,
Receiving • Weber St., X.Johnson 6-123, Walker 4-54, Fowler 2-17,
Tuckett 2-8, Clemente 1-2, Jankowski 1-2. S. Utah, Crawford-Harris 9-65,
Moala 7-95, Jessop 4-49, Pedersen 4-41, H.Brown 4-33, C..Morgan 2-20, McNabb 2-10, J.Smith 1-7.