Quickly: Two teams looking to get back on track will square off in Eccles Coliseum this Saturday when Southern Utah hosts Portland State at 2:05 p.m. in the Thunderbirds’ annual Homecoming game.
Southern Utah (4-2/1-1 Big Sky) saw a modest two-game win streak come to an end at home last Saturday when UC Davis upended the Thunderbirds 21-3. SUU went into that game looking to go 5-1 and tie the best start in the school’s four-year history but the Aggies dashed those hopes by keeping the Thunderbirds out of the end zone at home for the first time since the 2001 season.
SUU opened the season playing four of its first games on the road and was able to come away with wins in three of those four but was unable to defend the home turf in the second home game of the season.
Portland State (3-3/0-2 Big Sky) won three of its first four games of the season, with the only setback a 37-30 loss at California where the Bears came from behind to post the victory. One of the Vikings’ wins was a 41-10 victory in a non-conference game at UC Davis but PSU has lost at home to Cal Poly (38-34) and at Montana (55-27) in the past two weeks.
The Vikings, who boast one of the most potent offenses in the country this season, rolled up 511 yards of offense against the Grizzlies but Montana totalled 581 yards and was able to take advantage of four Viking turnovers.
The Game: Portland State (3-3/0-2) at Southern Utah (4-2/1-1), Saturday at 2:05 p.m. (MDT) at Eccles Coliseum (8,500/Hellas MatrixTurf).
Radio: All of Southern Utah’s 2013 football games will be available over the Thunderbird Sports Network. SUU flagship station KSUU (91.1 FM) will carry every game live as well as on the worldwide web at www.suu.edu/ksuu. Dr. Art Challis, who is in his 40th season as the Voice of the Thunderbirds provides the play-by-play while former SUU standout Jared Ursua will provide analysis.
Video Highlights: High definition video highlights of ALL of the Thunderbirds’ home and road games will be available to accredited media outlets via SUU’s FTP site. For information on obtaining those highlights contact SUU Director of Athletic Media Relations Neil Gardner.
Live Internet Video on WatchBigSky.com: Internet telecasts of all of SUU’s home games as well as its Big Sky road games are available through WatchBigSky.com (formerly BigSkyTV). The broadcasts are free of charge but a subscription is necessary and viewers need to download the latest versions of Adobe Flash and Octoshape if they do not already have them (the downloads are available on WatchBigSky.com). Viewers who had an account with BigSkyTV will be able to use that account to access WatchBigSky.com.
TV: Saturday’s game will not be televised.
Media Availability: Players and coaches are available for interviews on Tuesdays following practice, at approximately 7:00 p.m. To contact a player or coach on another day or time, or to arrange telephone interviews, contact Neil Gardner at email@example.com or 435-586-7753.
Thunderbird Practice Schedule: The players are off on Mondays, with daily practices Tuesday through Friday. Tuesday practices are scheduled to begin at 5:35 p.m., Wednesday practices will begin at 5:30, while Thursday and Friday practices will start at 4:45 p.m.
The Series: PSU holds an 8-2 lead in the series but the Thunderbirds come out on top of a 49-42 decision last year in Portland, Ore. Prior to last year’s meeting the two teams hadn’t met in 16 years. The Thunderbirds and Vikings met nine times in the 1980s and 1990s, with all but two of the contests coming when both teams were members of the NCAA Division II Western Football Conference. Portland State won eight of those battles, including all five in Portland. Prior to last season Southern Utah’s lone win came at home in 1989, when – in front of a sparse crowd on a rainy, deer-hunt-opening weekend – the Thunderbirds downed the Vikings, 36-26, in Cedar City.
Big Sky Teleconference: The Big Sky Conference holds a weekly coaches teleconference, Wednesdays beginning at 10:00 a.m. (Mountain). For information on accessing the teleconference, contact SUU Director of Athletic Media Relations Neil Gardner. The schedule follows:
10:00 a.m. MTN (9:00 PCT) – Rob Ash, Montana State
10:08 a.m. MTN (9:08 PCT) – Chris Mussman, North Dakota
10:16 a.m. MTN (9:16 PCT) – Ed Lamb, Southern Utah
10:24 a.m. MTN (9:24 PCT) – Jody Sears, Weber State
10:32 a.m. MTN (9:32 PCT) – Mike Kramer, Idaho State
10:40 a.m. MTN (9:40 PCT) – Mick Delaney, Montana
10:48 a.m. MTN (9:48 PCT) – Earnest Collins Jr., No. Colorado
10:56 a.m. MTN (9:56 PCT) – Jerome Souers, No. Arizona
11:04 a.m. MTN (10:04 PCT) – Nigel Burton, Portland State
11:12 a.m. MTN (10:12 PCT) – Marshall Sperbeck, Sacramento State
11:20 a.m. MTN (10:20 PCT) – Beau Baldwin, E. Washington
11:28 a.m. MTN (10:28 PCT) – Tim Walsh, Cal Poly
11:36 a.m. MTN (10:36 PCT) – Ron Gould, UC Davis
Thunderbird Club Luncheons: The Thunderbird Club’s weekly no-host luncheon is held Mondays at noon at the Cedar City Crystal Inn. The public is invited to attend the luncheons where Southern Utah’s in-season coaches talk about their upcoming contests and review the past week’s action.
Next Up/Remaining Schedule:
The Thunderbirds head back out on the road next week for a match-up with Eastern Washington. Following that game the ‘Birds return home for a game against Idaho State on Oct. 26 before a bye the week of Nov. 2. The final two road games of the season are at Weber State (Nov. 9) and Montana State (Nov. 16) with the regular-season finale on Nov. 23 at home against Northern Arizona.
A 2010 Eddie Robinson Award nominee, SUU's Ed Lamb (BYU, 1996) has a record of 30-31 in his sixth season as the Thunderbird head coach and his sixth season as a head coach overall. Last year Lamb guided the Thunderbirds to a 5-6 record, including a 4-4 mark in SUU’s first season in the Big Sky Conference. In 2011 he led the T-Birds to their second straight winning season and their first win over an FBS-level opponent (UNLV) since 1997. He led the team to a Great West Conference championship in 2010 when the Thunderbirds went undefeated in GWC play and finished the season with a 6-5 overall mark. Prior to taking over at SUU, Lamb spent three seasons at the University of San Diego where he coordinated the special teams and recruiting and was the Toreros’ defensive backs coach. Lamb also spent two seasons as defensive coordinator at Idaho, a season at BYU as a linebackers coach and four seasons at the University of Redlands, three as defensive coordinator and one as defensive line coach. Coach Lamb is 1-0 vs. the Vikings.
Portland State’s Nigel Burton (Washington, 1999) is 16-20 in his fourth season at the helm of the Viking program and in his fourth season overall as a head coach. Coach Burton is 0-1 vs. the Thunderbirds.
Affiliations: Southern Utah is a member of the Big Sky Conference in the majority of its sports, including football (gymnastics is an independent while men’s golf will compete in the American Sky Conference this season). Portland State is also a member of the Big Sky Conference.
Notes from the UC Davis Game:
• Raysean Martin had nine carries for 47 yards in the first half but didn’t get a carry in the second half. The team finished with a season-low 45 yards on the ground as the Aggies tallied four sacks for 23 yards in losses.
• Fatu Moala caught eight passes for 90 yards, giving him at least eight receptions and at least 90 yards in three straight games.
• Aaron Cantu completed 29-of-50 passes for 281 yards. All three numbers are career-highs and the 50 attempts are the sixth-most in a game in SUU history. He was also sacked a career-high four times, however.
• Chad Hansen tied his season-high with 12 tackles to lead the team for the second time in three games. He also had a dozen stops in the win at Sacramento State. Hansen also forced a fumble and had a team-best four solo tackles.
• Myles Killebrew recovered the fumble Hansen forced. That turnover led to SUU’s only points of the day, a 30-yard Colton Cook field goal.
• James Cowser had the T-Birds’ only sack vs. the Aggies and had a team-best 1.5 tackles for loss as well as a quarterback hurry.
• SUU went without a touchdown for the first time since the season-opener at Utah State last year and the first time at home since the fourth game of the 2001 season when Southern Oregon beat the T-Birds 16-3.
SUU In The FCS National Ranks:
SUU has nine players ranked among the FCS top-50 in 13 statistical categories and the team figures among the top-30 programs in 13 categories.
Defense: DE James Cowser ranks ninth in the FCS in tackles for loss with 1.8 per game and 44th in sacks with 0.7 per game. LB Matt Holley is also ranked in two categories: 44th in fumbles recovered with 0.33 per game and 48th in TFL with 1.3 per outing. Chad Hansen is 41st in fumbles forced with 0.33 per game while Miles Killebrew is tied with Holley in fumbles recovered in 44th place (0.33).
Offense: On the offensive side of the ball QB Aaron Cantu ranks among the top-50 in three categories, including 10th in completion percentage at .672. Cantu is also 30th in completions per game with 20.5 and 41st in total passing yards with 1,151. RB Raysean Martin ranks 3nd with five rushing touchdowns while WR Fatu Moala is 35th in receptions per game with 5.7 and 47th in receiving yards with 393.
Special Teams: Kicker Colton Cook is 12th in the nation with 1.3 field goals per game and 46th in field goal percentage (0.727) while punter Brock Miller ranks 14th in the nation with a 43.4 yards per punt average.
Team: In the team categories, SUU is fourth in fumbles lost with one, eighth in fumbles recovered with seven, eighth in time of possession (33:19) and ninth in pass completion percentage (.670). SUU is 12th in fewest penalties per game (4.67), 13th in fourth down conversion percentage (.800), 17th in turnovers gained (13), 18th in rushing defense (114.8 ypg) and 20th in fewest penalty yards per game (42) and red zone defense (70 percent). The Thunderbirds also rank 23rd in turnover margin (plus 0.8) and 26th in third down conversion defense (33.8 percent).
T-Birds Receiving Votes In Polls: Southern Utah was listed among the others receiving votes in the FCS Coaches and Sports Network’s top-25 polls this week. SUU received seven points to rank 32nd in the coaches poll and 48 points to rank 38th in the Sports Network poll this week.
• Senior PK Colton Cook sets SUU’s career record every time he hits a field goal. His 38-yard game-winner at Sacramento State put him into a tie atop SUU’s career-field goals list with Herkey Marxen at, appropriately, 38, and he has hit three more since, two at Northern Colorado and another vs. UC Davis. His three points against the Aggies give him 193 career points, which is eighth on the SUU list (sixth behind seventh place Kelvin Minefee, 1988-89). he also has 69 PAT which puts him in fourth place on SUU’s career list.
• Senior WR Fatu Moala moved into fifth place on a pair of career lists at Northern Colorado and after eight catches for 90 yards vs. UC Davis he has 125 career catches for 1,573 yards. He is 503 yards behind Bob Stookey (1988-91) and 18 receptions behind A.J. Smith (2003-04) for fourth place on those respective lists. Moala is also knocking on the door of another list as he needs just two touchdowns to move into a tie for ninth in SUU’s career receiving TDs list (he is currently 11th with nine).
• Senior punter Brock Miller’s five punts for 226 yards pushed his SUU career-high average from 42.7 yards per kick to 42.9. Trevor Ward, who last played in 2009, is second at 42.3 ypp.
Thunderbird Quick Hits:
• SUU is 4-1 in overtime games. Since losing a 42-34 decision at Hampton in 2000 in their first OT game the Thunderbirds have won their last four extra session games: a 23-17 double-overtime win at home over South Dakota State in 2004, a 20-17 home win over Northern Colorado in 2005, a 35-29 triple-OT win at Northern Arizona last season and the 24-21 win at Sacramento State on Sept. 21.
• SUU is in its 51st season as a four-year football-playing institution and its 28th as a member of the NCAA. The 2012 season also marks the Thunderbirds’ 21st as a member of the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision and is the school’s second in the Big Sky Conference. SUU competed in the Great West Conference prior to moving to the BSC.
Scouting the Vikings:
Portland State brings one of the most potent offenses in the nation into the Coliseum on Saturday. The Vikings are averaging 574 yards per game, the third-best average in the FCS ranks (and the best in the Big Sky) and their 38.7 points per game average ranks 13th in the FCS.
The Vikings have averaged 306 yards per game through the air and a Big Sky-best 268 on the ground to rank among the national leaders in both categories, including sixth in rushing and 12th in passing.
Defensively Portland State has allowed opponents 27.2 points and 460 yards per game, with 249 of those yards coming through the air and 212 on the ground.
Quarterback Kieran McDonagh is a double-threat as he has thrown for an average of 266 yards and run for another 42 per game. He has completed 86-of-155 passes for 1,597 yards and 13 touchdowns with seven interceptions so far this season.
McDonagh’s favorite receiver has been wideout Kasey Closs, who has 31 receptions for 665 yards and five touchdowns. Victor Dean has been the big play receiver, with five touchdowns among his 12 receptions and an average of 25.8 yards per catch and Thomas Carter is second on the team in receptions, with 21 for 191 yards. In all, six Vikings average 20 yards or better per catch.
When it comes to the ground game D.J. Adams has carried the bulk of the load, with 105 carries for a Big Sky-leading 696 yards with seven touchdown runs. Adams averages 116 yards per game, while Shaquille Richard, who is second on the team, averages 43 with two touchdowns and McDonagh has rushed for a trio of TDs.
Strong safety Dean Faddis has led the Portland defense with 54 tackles. Faddis co-leads the team with three passes broken up and he is one of five Vikings with an interception. Middle linebacker Jaycob Shoemaker is second on the team with 46 tackles, including a team-high 5.5 tackles for loss, while a trio of Vikings, DEs Jeremy Boone and Bryant Long, and DT Junior Alexis, co-lead the team in sacks with 2.5 each. Cornerback Aaron Sibley has the team’s lone defensive touchdown this season, which came on a 64-yard interception return in the season-opener against Eastern Oregon.