T-Birds Shock Jaguars In Opener

MOBILE, Ala., Aug. 29 –Colton Cook kicked a 28-yard field goal as time expired to lift Southern Utah to a 22-21 come-back win over South Alabama Thursday night.

After scoring the first 10 points of the game the Thunderbirds were outscored 21-3 and found themselves down 21-13 early in the fourth quarter but the Thunderbirds rallied, pulling within 21-19 after Tommy Collet Jr. intercepted a pass at the 43 yard line to set up  a drive that culminated when Aaron Cantu found Anthony Norris on a 2-yard pass with 6:13 to play. It was the first touchdown pass at SUU for Cantu and the first TD reception for Norris.

SUU’s two-point conversion attempt failed, leaving the T-Birds short but still within striking distance.

The Thunderbird defense then held the Jaguars, forcing a punt that set SUU up on its own 35 yard line. The T-Birds went with four straight running plays, then had a near-miscue work in their favor as Griff McNabb was late getting onto the field on second and 13. The Jaguar defense didn’t see McNabb, but Cantu did and hit him for a 16-yard gain that put the ball on the USA 27 yard line.

McNabb’s play wasn’t designed, SUU Coach Ed Lamb noted. “It wasn’t a trick play, it was just a read. [McNabb] just came in late – we had a substitution issue – it wasn’t intentional deception even though it did deceive them the intent of the play was not to deceive them. It was an unfortunate series of events for their defense and we got a little lucky.”

The Thunderbirds ran the ball down the the 11, with Malik Brown providing a 13-yard gain along the way, setting Cook up for the game-winner.

Southern Utah scored the first 10 points of the game on a 33-yard Colton Cook field goal and a one-yard Raysean Martin run.

Cook’s field goal capped the Thunderbirds’ first drive of the season, a 12-play, 61-yard effort in which Martin carried four times for 31 yards. Martin’s touchdown run was set up by a 54-yard pass from Aaron Cantu to Chandler Allphin. It appeared Allphin might take it in himself but USA’s Qudarius Ford caught him from behind on the eight yard line. Martin took it to one on first-and-goal, then took it into the end zone on second down.

After starting the game flat USA rallied with backup quarterback Brandon Bridge came on and ran a 40-yard QB draw up the middle for a touchdown to cut the SUU edge to 10-7, which was the score at halftime.

The Thunderbirds went up 13-7 on a 37-yard cook field goal early in the fourth period, but USA answered with a TD on its ensuing drive then took the 21-13 lead on Ross Metheny’s second TD pass of the game, a 20-yard hookup with Danny Woodson.

“I was really proud of the way our guys fought,” Lamb noted. “We had the game early … but South Alabama wrestled it away from us there in the third quarter, but our guys didn’t start bickering, they didn’t start fighting with each other, they stayed with the plan, they made some plays down the stretch, just enough plays to win.”

NOTES: Martin wound up with 107 yards on 23 carries ... Aaron Cantu’s first completion as a Thunderbird was a 12-yard hook-up with Griff McNabb for a first down on the Thunderbirds’ first drive of the season … Martin’s first carry as a Thunderbird went for five yards … defensive tackle Toi Taufa, who was playing in his first game since graduating from high school in 2010, was credited with blocking a field goal attempt midway through the second quarter …  Anthony Norris caught his first collegiate pass and scored his first touchdown on Cantu’s first TD pass at SUU … The win was Ed Lamb’s first win in a road-opener and his second in an opening game in his six-year SUU career … SUU had 317 yard sof total offense, 183 through the air and 134 on the ground; USA and 335 yards, 187 rushing and 148 passing.