Nov. 4, 2006
Ogden, Utah -
Weber State's vaunted defense flexed its muscles in the second half as it rallied from a 14-10 deficit at halftime to defeat Eastern Washington 19-14 in a Big Sky Conference football game Saturday (Nov. 4) in Ogden, Utah.
The Wildcats held Eastern to just 32 yards in the second half as they outscored the Eagles 9-0 after halftime. Weber State had a 254-32 advantage in total yards in the second half, including 160-2 in the third quarter. A knee injury in the first half to starting offensive tackle Zach Wasielewski didn't help matters for an Eastern team already missing senior offensive guard Harrison Nikolao with a shoulder injury.
"They played better than us," said EWU head coach Paul Wulff of the second-half turnaround. "There were no adjustments -- they just whipped us. We lost Wasielewski so we had to shuttle some offensive linemen in there. We didn't block very well and we didn't execute."
"It's frustrating when you do bone-headed things and don't give yourself a chance," he added. "It gets a little tiresome when you don't execute very well."
Both teams entered Saturday's game with two victories each as Eastern fell to 2-8 on the season and 2-5 in conference play. Eastern closes the season next Saturday at home versus Idaho State in a game that starts at 2:05 p.m. Pacific time at Woodward Field.
Weber State is now 3-6 overall and 2-4 in the league. The five victories between the Eagles and Wildcats are a far cry from the 13 they combined for last season when Eastern finished 7-4 and Weber State closed the year 6-5. At best, they can combine for just eight this year.
Senior running back Ryan Cole and freshman redshirt quarterback Matt Nichols helped lead Eastern to a pair of first-half touchdowns with drives of 59 and 85 yards. Cole finished the game with 65 rushing yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. Nichols completed 10-of-18 passes for 93 yards and a touchdown.
But most of that production came in the first half against a Weber State defense that entered the game allowing just 284.3 yards per game to rank 24th in NCAA Division I-AA and second in the Big Sky behind league unbeaten Montana (260.2). Opponents were averaging just 22.8 points per game versus the Wildcats.
Eastern finished with 211 yards of total offense while Weber State closed the game with 443. Eastern's defensive effort was much-improved from its last two games when it allowed a collective 78 points in losses to Northern Arizona and Portland State. Just three games ago, Eastern was celebrating the school's first shutout in 215 games with a 34-0 whitewashing of Northern Colorado.
Weber State scored its touchdowns on a flea flicker play and a punt return. Because of Eastern's troubles on offense -- including eight Eagle punts -- the Wildcats had a 6 1/2-minute edge in time of possession. Safety Bryan Jarrett led the Eagles with nine tackles, and safety Brandon Keeler and cornerback DeNique Ford each had seven.
"They didn't do bad," said Wulff of his defense. "They gave up some yardage at times, but they were on the field a long time because the offense couldn't get anything going. Weber State scored on a trick play and a punt return, so defensively we really didn't give up a touchdown on a long drive."
Eastern had a 30-yard kickoff return by true freshman Jesse Hoffman on the opening kickoff, then drove 59 yards on nine plays to take an early 7-0 lead. Cole rushed for 27 yards on the drive, which was capped by a 17-yard touchdown pass from Nichols to Tony Davis. Nichols passed just twice -- both completions -- on the drive.
A 61-yard punt return by Tim Toone knotted the score at seven before Eastern took a 14-7 lead with another scoring drive generated by Cole and Nichols. Cole scored on a 4-yard run to cap a 14-play, 85-yard drive that took 6:21 off the clock. Cole rushed for 34 yards on that drive and Nichols had a 20-yard scramble while also completing 3-of-4 passes.
Eastern led 14-10 at halftime as Weber State kicked a field goal with just five seconds remaining before intermission. Eastern had 179 yards of total offense at halftime, with 136 coming on the two scoring drives. The Wildcats had 189 and missed a pair of field goals, one that was blocked by Nick Denbeigh.
Weber State kicked a field goal in the third quarter to pull within 14-13, then scored the winning touchdown on a 49-yard flea flicker pass play from Ian Pizarro to a wide open Terry Larsen. That came with just 18 seconds to play in the third quarter.
"We're going to talk about it and try to get it fixed," added Wulff. "Our effort is good and we're playing hard. But we're just not finishing drives and didn't tackle well on defense. We didn't give up touchdowns, but you can see we missed a lot of tackles and allowed them to get a lot of yardage. Offensively, we couldn't block in the second half. When you don't do those things you aren't going to execute."