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Surprise defensive plan lifts Weber St. over SUU

Quarterback Casey Reher (7) of Southern Utah gets off a pass despite onrushing Weber State defensive tackle Emil Metroka.
Quarterback Casey Reher (7) of Southern Utah gets off a pass despite onrushing Weber State defensive tackle Emil Metroka.
Keith Johnson, Deseret Morning News

OGDEN — After dropping the last two games to Southern Utah, Weber State coach Jerry Graybeal took a different approach Saturday night at Stewart Stadium.

The Wildcats used a new defensive game plan that stymied the Thunderbirds enough for Weber State to earn a 13-3 win and improve to 2-0 on the season. The loss drops SUU to 0-2.

"The kids did a good job executing the package," Graybeal said of his defense. The Wildcats gained 428 yards total offense and held the T-Birds to 211.

The defensive effort appeared a lot sharper from the previous week, and it carried the Wildcats when the offense failed to score. Weber State linebacker and team captain Matt McFadden, from Kanab, said the victory was satisfying.

"We had a great game plan coming in, and our people were flying around and making plays," said McFadden, who also tied a school record with four pass deflections in a game. "Personally, it was one of my best wins."

SUU coach Gary Andersen made no excuses for the poor performance.

"I won't try to paint a pretty picture, our offense was the craps," Andersen said. "Our offense made no plays."

Weber State got the jump on the T-Birds in the first half, thanks to a couple of Bauer to DeFour connections and a Joe Johnson field goal. Bauer hit DeFour with a 49-yard bomb down the sideline to put the Wildcats into scoring position. A few plays later, Bauer hit DeFour with a 20-yard TD strike to give Weber a 7-0 lead. The Wildcats made it 10-0 on its next possession as kicker Joe Johnson connected on a 20-yard field goal.

Southern Utah's lone score in the half came early in the second quarter when kicker Steve Pulver booted a 26-yard field goal.

The only scoring of the second half came late in the fourth quarter on a 37-yard field goal that sealed the game. From that point on, the Wildcats were content to run out the clock by handing the ball down after down to running back Nick Chournos. With the clock running and plenty of open field, Chournos became the offense and found the holes that moved the chains. He finished the game with a career-high 38 carries for 196 yards.

"I'll be sore tomorrow, but that's when you know you've done your job," Chournos said. "I was getting tired near the end, but so were they."

Chournos said he felt the team did some growing up in Saturday's win. Despite the win over Western State, Chournos said the team was disappointed in the effort and the memory served as motivation.

The only obivous flaw for the Wildcats came in the kicking game, where Johnson missed three field goals. But Graybeal stood by his kicker.

"(Joe the) Toe is a good kicker," Graybeal said. "If we're moving the ball with a two-score lead, that's satisfying."

The Wildcats will have their hands full next Saturday as they travel to face the Colorado State Rams. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. Chournos is excited to face the Rams.

"We're the underdog, but so what," he said. "I like it like that. We're not intimidated."