September 22, 2002 11:00 pm

OGDEN, Utah — The tone was set for the Eastern Oregon University Mountaineers' game against Weber State Saturday on their first play from scrimmage.

Eastern quarterback Sean VandeMerghel was intercepted on his first pass attempt against the Wildcats only 20 seconds into the game. Weber St., an NCAA Division 1AA team out of the Big Sky Conference, then drove 32 yards on four plays and scored its first touchdown with 12:56 left in the first quarter. The Wildcats went on to win 56-7.

After two heartbreaking losses earlier this season, the Mountaineers (0-3) simply struggled against a bigger, deeper team playing in a higher NCAA division. Weber St. was ahead 21-0 by the end of the first quarter and 42-0 by the end of the half.

"We were in way over our heads. They were very strong, very physical, very fast," said Mountaineers' coach Jim Fenwick.

The Wildcats didn't have many big offensive plays in that first half, but their defense was stifling, forcing two early turnovers and holding the Mountaineers to only three first downs and 77 first-half yards.

Because of the play of their defense, the Wildcats had an average starting field position at its own 49 for its first five drives.

Exploiting that great field position, the Wildcats scored on five straight possessions. Weber St. scored a sixth first-half TD on a 30-yard interception return by linebacker Matt McFadden.

The Wildcats' star running back, Nick Chournes, only gained 71 yards, but he did score three touchdowns, all on short runs.

Despite the lopsided score, Weber State's final statistics were not that dominating. The Wildcats gained 360 total yards from scrimmage to Eastern's 218 (119 through the air and 99 on the ground). Fenwick said the Mountaineer players did get a taste of a big-time collegiate atmosphere at Stewart Stadium in Ogden. "They got a better idea of what it takes to compete at (Weber State's) level," he said.

Major Caldwell led the Mountaineers with 39 yards rushing on 17 carries. Eastern again used multiple quarterbacks, with Scott Jensen posting the best numbers with 72 yards passing on 8-18. Matt Hamlin caught four passes for 60 yards. Andre McIntosh caught four balls for 45 yards.

Hamlin scored the Mountaineers' touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 37-yard pass from Jensen. On defense, linebacker Jose Pesqueira forced a fumble, which was recovered by defensive back Jason Rice. Fenwick also lauded the defensive play of defensive end Patrick Rostowick, who had a sack. Rice also led the team with seven tackles.

Eastern will play on the road again Saturday against Montana Tech in Butte, Mont. Fenwick said the Eastern players are looking forward to this game. Montana Tech is an NAIA school, and the Mountaineer players know they are going into that contest as an improving team.

"Every week, we're getting better. Now, (against Montana Tech) we have a realistic opportunity to produce and come together," said Fenwick.

Eastern Oregon 0 0 0 7 — 7

Weber State 21 21 7 7 — 56

First quarter

WS — Nick Chournos 3 run (Joe Johnson kick) 12:56

WS — Chournos 1 run (Johnson kick) 7:28

WS — Chournos 7 run (Johnson kick) 2:28

Second quarter

WS — Tate Bennett 7 run (Johnson kick) 12:28

WS — Matt McFadden 30 interception return (Johnson kick) 11:31

WS — Justin DeFour pass 7 from Bennett (Johnson kick) 7:18.

Third quarter

WS — Gavin Brooks 4 run (Johnson kick) 7:37

Fourth quarter

EO — Matt Hamlin 37 pass from Scott Jensen (Vandemerghel kick) 8:34

WS — James McCowan 100 kick return (Johnson kick) 8:15.


First downs 14 18

Rushes-yards 36-99 34-146

Passing yards 119 214

Comp-att-int 33-14-2 30-22-0

Punts 8-34.6 5-45.6

Fumbles-lost 0-0 1-1

Punt returns-yards 1-9 3-42

Kickoff returns-yards 8-134 2-117

Penalties-yards 9-72 8-85

Third-down conversions 4 of 16 6 of 12

Fourth-down conversions 0 of 2 1 of 1

Sacks by–yards lost 1-7 1-5

Time of possession 29:58 30:02

Individual statistics

RUSHING — Eastern Oregon, Caldwell 17-49, Davidson 2-18, S. Jensen 8-19, Johnson 5-14, Roberson 2-9, Allard 1-7. Weber State, Chournos 9-71, Brooks 12-68, Bennett 3-7, Auva'a 5-9, Morrill 2-6, Fowler 1-5, Patterson 2-2.

PASSING — Eastern Oregon, S. Jensen 8-18-0-72, VandeMerghel 2-9-2-34, T. Bird 4-6-0-13. Weber State, Bennett 16-21-0-167, Fowler 4-6-0-41, Morrill 2-3-0-6.

RECEIVING — Eastern Oregon, Hamlin 4-60, McIntosh 4-45, Caldwell 3-2, Davis 2-11, Killgore 1-1. Weber State, McConnell 4-49, Nath 3-52, Dukeshire 3-27, Peery 3-19, Chournos 3-15, Norman 2-12, Rebholz 1-15, Rodriguez 1-10, Auva'a 1-8, DeFour 1-7.

LEADING TACKLERS — Eastern Oregon, Hannah 7.5, Rice 7.5, Neill 7, Christensen 4.5, Hanrahan 3.5, Pesqueira 3.5. Weber State, Liptrot 5.5, Swan 3.5, Gold 3.5, Randy Smith 3, Dayne Faerber 3.

MISSED FIELD GOALS — Eastern Oregon, VandeMerghel 38 (blocked).