WSU football falls in final home game

(Photo by Brandy A. Cimmino) Weber State University’s Xavian Johnson pulls in a touchdown pass.

The Weber State University football team was trying to avoid going winless at home on Saturday when it took on the University of Northern Colorado.

WSU couldn’t fend off the Bears, falling 42-34 and failing to win a game at home for the second time in school history. The 34 points was the most points scored for WSU this season.

“We didn’t play as disciplined as we needed to and we made some mistakes that cost us,” said WSU Head Coach Jody Sears. “I tip my hat to Northern Colorado, who came in and played hard. I was proud of our effort, but we’ve got to clean up some execution and be ready to play next week.”

The score was close for the first half, with the lead switching back and forth between the teams, but the Bears weren’t threatened for much of the second half.

Despite eventually losing, the Wildcats struck quickly, scoring on their first drive of the game. Mike Hoke completed a 26-yard pass to a diving Xavian Johnson in the corner of the end zone for the first points of the game.

Johnson was one of the brightest spots for WSU’s offense in the first half, but he left the game due to an injury to his shoulder. In the second quarter, he pulled in a 53-yard pass to set up a Wildcat touchdown. As Johnson came down after catching the ball, he landed hard on his shoulder and left the field.

With the Wildcats getting the ball back on their 1-yard line, the Bears’ defense was able to get the team’s first points of the game when C.J. Tuckett was tackled in the end zone for a safety. The Bears quickly struck again. Seth Lobato threw a 60-yard pass to Dominic Gunn, who was wide open near midfield. Gunn raced down the sideline to make the score 9-7 at the end of the first quarter.

Throughout the first half, the Wildcats’ secondary struggled to contain UNC’s receivers. The Bears converted multiple big-pass plays in the first and second quarters. WSU’s secondary left receivers wide open. Two big passes led to two UNC touchdowns.

“It’s disappointing for us, especially for us as seniors,” Hoke said. “We were able to do some good things offensively, but the only thing that really matters is getting the win.”

Hoke finished the day 24-46, passing for a season-high 310 yards and four touchdowns, along with one interception. On the ground, Tuckett had 17 carries for 87 yards. Lanny Papanikolas led the receiving crew with seven catches for 71 yards and a touchdown. Erik Walker, Johnson, Jordan Clemente and Brian Jankowski all caught touchdowns for the Wildcats.

The Bears extended their lead to 11 points just before halftime with a 20-yard touchdown pass, then were never really challenged after the break.

With seven minutes remaining, WSU pulled within eight points of the Bears on a short touchdown pass, giving the Wildcats a window of hope, but that window closed quickly. On UNC’s first play of the ensuing drive, Lobato connected with Gunn on a 69-yard pass, setting up a touchdown and effectively closing out the game.

Lobato led the Bears with more than 400 yards passing. Gunn finished the game with 160 yards and one touchdown.

The Wildcats will now travel to Idaho next week, when they’ll finish the season against rival Idaho State University.