"I knew if we beat McNeese, we'd have a really good football team."
Despite the No. 19 ranking the Cowboys (3-0) brought to Stewart Stadium, this was supposed to be a tone-setter for Weber State, especially with No. 10 and Big Sky Conference favorite Eastern Washington coming to Ogden next week.
Wildcat players said so during the week leading up to their final nonconference game of 2012. Weber State was at home and at elevation against a team from Louisiana.
Instead, McNeese State, which gained 557 yards in a balanced and relentless attack, built a 35-7 lead midway through the final period.
"We expected a tough fight from Weber State," MSU quarterback Cody Stroud said. "We knew they were going to be physical, but I thought we did a good job of adjusting our routes and got some great runs."
McNeese State unveiled a passing attack that Weber State hadn't seen. Cowboy receivers ran clearing patterns that allowed Stroud to find some easy targets for medium-range yards. He finished 20 of 27 with 256 yards.
The game's turning point came in the third quarter. Weber State rallied from a 14-0 halftime deficit and was knocking on the door with the tying score.
However, one play after recovering a MSU fumble on the Cowboys' 26-yard line, WSU quarterback Mike Hoke threw an interception near the goal line.
One play following the pick, McNeese State (3-0) receiver Diontae Spencer raced 91 yards on an end around for a touchdown and a 21-7 lead.
"Something always seemed to kill a drive," said Hoke, who was 9 of 19 passing for 69 yards. "Defensively, they didn't do anything we didn't expect.
"It's all stuff that's fixable."
Sears was more concerned with Weber State's inability to hold McNeese State down.
Whether it took 11 plays or one, the Cowboys had five drives of 80 yards or more.
"We did some uncharacteristic things today," Sears said, citing penalties and dropped balls. "We got some work to do. It's a consistency thing. I don't think it's a talent thing. It's starts with the coaches."