It's not going to define us; we can't let it define us... —WSU interim head coach Jody Sears
OGDEN — It was Senior Day at Weber State, and the Wildcats had one last chance to earn their first home-field win of the 2012 football season.
Instead, it was a junior from Northern Colorado who stole the show and spoiled WSU's day.
Seth Lobato, a junior quarterback for the visiting Bears, threw for 418 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another score as Northern Colorado notched its first-ever win over the Wildcats, 42-34, Saturday afternoon at snowy Stewart Stadium.
Lobato had the second-most passing yards of his collegiate career and the third-most in school history, with touchdown passes of 65 yards to Dominic Dunn, 13 yards to Tromaine Dennis, and TD tosses to Darin McDonald of 35 and 15 yards. He added a 1-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter as the Bears improved to 3-4 in the Big Sky Conference and 4-6 overall by beating WSU for the first time after starting out 0-6 in the series between the two schools.
"We gave up some big, deep balls and they made some good plays," said defensive end Trevor Pletcher, one of 14 Weber State seniors who was playing the final home game of his career. "... Their quarterback was on point today and pretty accurate, but we should've played a lot better than we did. It's really frustrating."
"That's my responsibility," WSU interim head coach Jody Sears, who also serves as the Wildcats' defensive coordinator, said after seeing his team get torched by Lobato and Co. "That's the coaches' responsibility; that's all on our shoulders."
Weber State quarterback Mike Hoke had a solid passing day of his own, throwing for 310 yards and four touchdowns — both season-bests — and he also rushed for 39 more yards. But it wasn't enough to prevent the Wildcats from falling to 1-6 in Big Sky Conference play and 1-9 overall.
"It doesn't really matter," Hoke said of his big statistical day. "... We lost, so pretty much all the stats are irrelevant. It's been pretty much like every game ... it added more to the disappointment.
"Why we're performing this way with the players we have, it's just unacceptable."
Hoke had touchdown passes of 26 yards to Xavian Johnson, 22 yards to Erik Walker, 3 yards to Brian Jankowski and 8 yards to Jordan Clemente. Those last two TD throws came in the fourth quarter, but each one could only pull the 'Cats within eight points of the Bears. Clemente's touchdown catch came with just six seconds left in the game.
After going 0-5 at home for just the second time in school history, the Wildcats will finish up their disheartening campaign next Saturday at Idaho State.
"It's been a disappointing year for our home games," said senior running back C.J. Tuckett, who ran for 87 yards and a touchdown. "It takes all 11 guys. ... It doesn't matter how good a players you have or what stats you have, that scoreboard, you know — if all 11 guys don't do their job — you can't win.
"It's frustrating. All of us here, we don't make excuses for what happens on the field. ... You're only as good as your weakest guy."
It started out well for Weber State, which wasted no time getting on the scoreboard quickly. The Wildcats took the opening kickoff and marched 75 yards in 11 plays, and Hoke hooked up with Johnson on a 26-yard touchdown pass with little more than three minutes gone in the first quarter.
Weber State's defense did a tremendous job to stop Northern Colorado's first scoring threat, turning back the Bears on back-to-back rushing tries from the 1-yard line.
But, buried deep in his own territory after that terrific defensive stand, Tuckett got dropped in the end zone for a safety to make it 7-2. And little more than a minute later, the Bears grabbed a 9-7 lead when Labato found Gunn running wide open across the field for a 65-yard touchdown pass play with one second left in the first period.
The Wildcats regained the lead early in the second quarter when Shaun McClain nailed a 45-yard field goal to make it 10-9.
Then it was Northern Colorado's turn, as Lobato found Dennis on a 13-yard touchdown pass that made it 15-10 after the two-point conversion attempt failed.
Weber State soon answered, as Hoke hit Johnson on a 53-yard pass that had the Wildcats knocking on the door, and Hoke followed that up with a 22-yard TD toss to a wide-open Walker for a 17-15 lead.
But Northern Colorado responded with a 35-yard pass from Lobato to McDonald to regain the lead at 22-17. And when the Wildcats were stopped short on a fouth-and-1 near midfield with less than two minutes left, the Bears immediately capitalized and made WSU pay by scoring again on Lobato's 15-yard touchdown pass to McDonald for a 28-17 halftime lead, as the two-point conversion try again failed.
Weber State trimmed the deficit to 28-20 in the third quarter on a 22-yard field goal by McClain. But an interception deep in UNC territory snuffed the Wildcats' next scoring drive, and the Bears soon extended their lead to 35-20 on Lobato's 1-yard TD run.
The 'Cats didn't quit, though, driving 75 yards to slash their deficit to 35-27 on Hoke's 3-yard touchdown pass to Jankowski.
But if Weber had any hopes of a dramatic comeback win, they were soon dashed when Lobato found Gunn again on a 69-yard pass play that vaulted the Bears to the Wildcats' 1. Dennis, who finished with 114 yards rushing and accounted for two TDs on the day, scored on the next play to make it 42-27, and the Wildcats were all but done.
Hoke added a last-gasp touchdown pass to Clemente just before the final gun, but this one was decided long before that.
"You've got to tip your hat to 'em. ... They caught us off-balance a little bit," Sears said. "This is not 0-11 (Northern) Colorado any more. They've got a quarterback and they've got a couple receivers and they've got a running back that runs pretty hard.
"It's not going to define us; we can't let it define us," Sears said of Saturday's disappointing defeat. "We've got to come back and rally up like we have been all year."