November 10, 2012

Football wins second-straight with 42-34 victory at Weber State

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Post-Game Notes 

By HEATHER KENNEDY
UNCBears.com

OGDEN, Utah – Northern Colorado junior quarterback Seth Lobato threw for over 400 yards for the third time and narrowly missed the all-time school record for passing yards in helping lead the Bears Football team to a 42-34 win at Weber State (1-9, 1-6 Big Sky Conference) for the team's second-straight road victory.

Lobato completed 24-of-38 passes for 418 yards, missing the all-time mark of 436 held by Nick Henkowski from 1983 against North Dakota by just 18 yards. He also threw for four touchdowns and rushed for another.

"I can't speak enough about how Seth is coming along as a quarterback and what he's doing for this program," Head Coach Earnest Collins Jr., said. "He's getting more and more comfortable out there and I'm glad we've got him for another year."

Both senior wide receiver Dominic Gunn and senior tight end Darin McDonald had 100-yard receiving games, the first time since Nov. 9, 2009 the Bears (4-6, 3-4 Big Sky) had two players with 100 or more in the same game. Gunn caught six passes for a career-best 160 yards, while McDonald had seven receptions for a career-high 109 yards.

"What can I say about Dominic Gunn?" Collins questioned. "He is continuing to make plays for us. He's stepped up and filled the void we lost with {Patrick Walker}. It took him a little bit to get going but he's really playing great."

Junior running back Tromaine Dennis also had his second-career 100-yard rushing game, carrying the ball 23 times for 114 yards and one touchdown as the Bears amassed 540 yards of total offense for a season-high. Dennis added four receptions for 30 yards and a touchdown for 144 yards in the game.

The 42-33 victory marks the first time the Bears have won back-to-back games since the 2003 season and keeps the team's hopes alive for a .500 record in Big Sky Conference action. It is also the team's first-ever win over Weber State. They get the chance to even their Big Sky record on Saturday, Nov. 17 when they host North Dakota in the season finale at 12:05 pm.

Junior wide receiver Will Jefferson Jr., also totaled over 100 yards of offense with 99 kickoff return yards and caught two passes for 39 yards for 138 on the day. His 99 kickoff return yards are also a career high, bettering his previous total of 56 from the Montana game.

"It was one of those games today that our offense had to do what we did," Collins said. "Coach {Jon} Boyer had a great game plan and coached our offense really, really well. We exploited their weaknesses – which were in the passing game – but we still were able to rush for over 100 yards. We had to outscore them because on defense we were short a little bit and made some bonehead mistakes. It was awesome to see the team come and play together. When we needed our offense to score points they did and when we needed to make a stop on defense we did."

On defense senior Herve Tonye-Tonye was the shining star, getting a career-best 15 tackles and one quarterback hurry. Both freshman Chris Urbaniak and senior Marcus Lucas sacked quarterback Mike Hoke and freshman Kyle Griffin had his first career interception, stopping a Wildcat drive in the fourth quarter.

The defense also broke up four passes and rushed Hoke three times throughout the snowy afternoon.

"The defense had some big stops on key drives today," Collins said. "We got the safety, had a huge stop on a fourth-down try and got an interception to stop a big drive. We're doing what we need to on defense to make it work."

Weber State began the scoring on its opening drive, going 80 yards in 11 plays for the early 7-0 lead. The Wildcats then got a huge stop on what looked like a Lobato rushing touchdown on fourth-and-goal for the Bears.

The defense took advantage of Weber State taking over on the one-inch line, recording its first safety of the year as senior defensive back Marcel Gibbons tackled C.J. Tuckett in the endzone for the 7-2 score.

The Bears offense came out on the ensuing drive and went 76 yards in three plays as Lobato hit Gunn for a 65-yard strike for the 9-7 lead with just under a minute remaining in the first quarter.

The Wildcats answered right back, making a 45-yard field goal off the foot of Shaun McClain to regain the lead at 10-9.

Senior tight end Doug Steele and Jefferson made back-to-back big catches, gaining 19 and 30 yards, respectively on the following drive and after Dennis rushed for five yards he caught a 13-yard pass for his first receiving touchdown of the year. The Bears went for two on the PAT and Lobato's pass sailed just long for a 15-10 lead.

Again, Weber State had an immediate answer, going 80 yards in just five plays for the 17-15 score but it was the last time the Wildcats would lead in the game.

The tight ends dominated the next drive for the Bears as sophomore Sawyere Monson rushed for five yards and McDonald had two catches for 47 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown reception for the 22-17 advantage.

With just 1:26 remaining in the half, Tonye-Tonye and junior defensive end Gavin Miller combined to stop the Wildcats on fourth-down and give the ball back to the hot offense at midfield.

Lobato didn't waste any time in marching down the field for his fourth passing touchdown of the half, again finding McDonald in the endzone from 15 yards out after being helped by a late hit penalty. The Bears again went for a two-point conversion, but Dennis was tackled in the backfield for the 28-17 halftime score.

"Darin's been struggling with back spasms the last few weeks," Collins said. "Nate {Hepner} and the athletic training staff have done a great job with him. Darin is a hybrid player in that he's a little bit of a tight end and a wide receiver and he's a mismatch for anyone on defense. If you try to put a cornerback on him or a safety on him, they're too small and a linebacker is too slow. His first touchdown was unbelievable; he just went up over the kid and pulled it in. On the second one, they lost him in the play and Lobato lobbed it up for him and he went and got it. The kids are starting to believe and get comfortable and he's definitely one of them. He has the talent, he just had to go learn the plays. Everyone, including his wife, was working with him to learn the plays and now it's paying off. I wish we had him for another year or two."

In the third quarter, Weber State added on three points with a 23-yard field goal to cut the Bears lead to eight, 28-20.

Northern Colorado went 83 yards in eight plays over the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth quarter, scoring on a one-yard Lobato rush to extend the lead to 15 points, 35-20.

The Wildcats answered with a touchdown on the following drive to again close within eight, 35-27 but the Bears stayed aggressive as Lobato completed a 69-yard strike to Gunn and capped the drive off with a one-yard rush into the endzone by Dennis for the 42-27 tally on the scoreboard, eating just 32 seconds off the clock.

The defense came up big once again, sacking Hoke on back-to-back plays, forcing a three-and-out for Weber State to dash its hopes of a late comeback. The Wildcats did score with six seconds left in the game, but took too long on the drive for the 42-34 final.