CEDAR CITY, Utah, Oct. 20 - Weber State rolled up a 14-3 halftime advantage, then held off Southern Utah down the stretch to pick up their first win of the season and keep the Thunderbirds winless at home in Big Sky Conference games with a 24-22 victory.
The Wildcats improved to 1-4 in the conference and 1-7 overall while the T-Birds dipped to 3-5 and 2-3 in the conference. SUU is 2-0 on the road in Big Sky play but all three losses have come at Eccles Coliseum.
SUU scored first, taking a 3-0 lead on a 46-yard Colton Cook field goal in the first quarter, but Weber State put up a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter to take a 14-0 lead into halftime. C.J. Tucket ran three yards for the first Wildcat score and quarterback Mike Hoke ran three for the second.
Southern Utah got the ball to begin the second half and drove to the WSU 11 yard line but the drive stalled after an illegal shift penalty and the Thunderbirds were forced to settle for another field goal.
On Weber State's ensuing possession Hoke and Xavian Johnson hooked up on what was perhaps the biggest play of the game. On the Wildcats' first play from scrimmage Hoke hit Johnson on a screen pass and Johnson did the rest, going 75 yards for a touchdown and a 21-6 WSU advantage.
"I thought our defense made some good adjustments at halftime, but the one-play, 75-yard drive, the score by Xavian Johnson, I thought put us too far behind," SUU Coach Ed Lamb said. "We couldn't quite catch up, didn't make the key plays down the stretch. Our third down conversions were not good, we were 3-of-14 on third down through the entire game, not good enough to win."
Southern Utah missed another opportunity on its next possession, as the Thunderbirds again drove into the red zone only to have a penalty kill the drive. This time it was a personal foul that wiped out a six-yard Myles Crawford-Harris touchdown run and forced another Cook field goal.
The Thunderbirds were able to cut the deficit to 21-16 when Moala dove the final three yards into the end zone on a 34-yard hookup with Sorensen with 8:11 to play in the game.
ON its ensuing possession WSU got good field position, at the SUU 39-yard line after another SUU penalty, then ran the clock down to 3:43 in eight plays before taking a 24-16 advantage on a 46-yard Shaun McClain field goal.
The Thunderbirds responded, however, driving down and pulling within two when Sorensen found Griff McNabb in the corner of the end zone with 54 seconds to play.
SUU's two-point conversion failed, however, when Trevor Pletcher sacked Sorensen as he scrambled to find a receiver, and the win was clinched when David James corralled the Thunderbirds' on-side kick.
SUU had "terrible timing," when it came to the penalties, which cost the Thunderbirds at least one touchdown and opportunities for two more as well as setting the Wildcats up with a short field for the game-clinching field goal, Lamb said.
"Terrible timing on our penalties and many of their penalties didn't seem to change the game all that much. When we have been in our groove [the team has been able to] start out first-and-20 after a holding call and still get first downs, that's a challenge after a penalty we didn't accept or win in those situations."
Sorensen wound up completing 33-of-47 passes for 320 yards and two TDs and went without throwing an interception for the second straight game. Crawford harris caught nine of those passes for 65 yards while Moala had seven receptions for 95.
Hoke completed 16-of-28 passes for 206 yards and a score and carried 16 times for 56 yards. Johnson had six receptions for 123 yards to lead all receivers.
-- SUU --