Football To Rekindle Rivalry With Idaho State

October 22, 2013
By SUU Strategic Communication
Robert Torgerson has been making an impact on the defensive line
Robert Torgerson has been making an impact on the defensive line
Courtesy: Greg Stauffer

Quickly: Southern Utah and Idaho State will rekindle a rivalry that has been dormant for nearly a decade this Saturday when the two teams meet in a Big Sky Conference match-up in Eccles Coliseum.

Southern Utah (5-3/2-2 Big Sky) will be looking to bounce back from a 34-10 loss at Eastern Washington last Saturday. The Thunderbirds were unable to capitalize on a couple of early breaks in that game and Eastern Washington took advantage of three turnovers in avenging a 30-27 loss to the Thunderbirds in Cedar City last season.

Idaho State (3-4/1-3 Big Sky) will also be looking to get back on track this weekend. The Bengals, who were coming off a 40-26 home win over Northern Colorado for their first Big Sky victory this year, lost a 39-30 decision at Northern Arizona last week.

The two teams squared off every year from 1997 to 2005 but this will be the first time they have faced each other since the ‘05 season.

The Game: Idaho State (3-4/1-3) at Southern Utah (5-3/2-2) Saturday at 1:05 p.m. 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 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 Internet telecasts of all of SUU’s home games as well as its Big Sky road games are available through (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 Viewers who had an account with BigSkyTV will be able to use that account to access

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 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: Idaho State holds a 9-4-1 advantage in the series, including a 38-13 home win the last time the teams met, in the 2005 season-opener. The Thunderbirds’ last win came in Cedar City in the 2004 season-finale when SUU prevailed, 45-31. Just four of the 14 previous games in the series have been played in Cedar City, where the Thunderbirds hold a 2-1-1 edge over the Bengals.

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 have a bye next week before heading out for the final two road games of the season, at Weber State (Nov. 9) and Montana State (Nov. 16). The T-Birds then wrap up the regular-season on Nov. 23 when they host Northern Arizona.

The Coaches:

A 2010 Eddie Robinson Award nominee, SUU's Ed Lamb (BYU, 1996) has a record of 31-32 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 0-0 vs. the Bengals.

Idaho State’s Mike Kramer (Idaho, 1977) is 6-23 in his third season as head coach at Idaho State and 83-98 in his 16th season as a head coach overall, all of which have been spent in the Big Sky Conference. Prior to taking the helm at Idaho State, Kramer spent six years as head coach at Montana State and seven years guiding the Eastern Washington program. Coach Kramer is 0-1 vs. the Thunderbirds, with the loss coming in Cedar City in 1998 when he was head coach at Eastern Washington. 

Affiliations: Southern Utah is a member of the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision’s Big Sky Conference in the majority of its sports, including football (gymnastics is an NCAA Division I independent while men’s golf will compete in the American Sky Conference this season). Idaho State is also a member of the Big Sky Conference.

Notes from the Eastern Washington Game:

• The Thunderbirds wound up with a season-high 368 yards of total offense (the previous high was 344 vs. Ft. Lewis and at Sac State).

• True freshman QB Mike Sharp led the team in rushing for the second time this season; he had 61 yards, had 67 against Ft. Lewis. Sharp, who completed 3-of-6 passes for 46 yards, threw his first career TD pass, a 29-yard hookup with junior CB Morgan; it was also the first TD of Morgan's SUU career.

• The defensive line had a big impact on the Thunderbirds’ take-aways. DE Andrew Eide – who tallied the first sack of his career – DT Robert Torgerson and DE James Cowser all got in on the action; Torgerson tipped a pass that Cowser intercepted and Eide forced a fumble that Cowser recovered.

• Brock Miller punted seven times for 297 yards; it was the sixth time this season that he had punted exactly seven times.

• QB Aaron Cantu completed 20-of-31 passes for 179 yards but was also intercepted three times.

• SUU's defense gave up a season-high 489 yards of total offense to the Eagles.

• SUU's three turnovers (all interceptions) tied the team's season-high, set at Washington State and the Washington State game was also the last time SUU gave up a pick-six.

SUU In The FCS/BSC National Ranks:

SUU has seven players ranked among the FCS top-50 in 10 statistical categories and the team figures among the top-30 programs in 14 categories.

Defense: DE James Cowser ranks 17th in the FCS and fourth in the Big Sky in tackles for loss with 1.6 per game while LB Matt Holley is just out of the top-50 (53rd) in the nation and sixth in the Sky in TFL with 1.2 per outing. Tommy Collet Jr. is 37th in the nation and second in the BSC in interceptions with 0.4 per game. Tyree Mills. 1.0 IPG would lead the nation but he has played in just four games and players must appear in 75 percent of their team’s contests to be eligible.

Offense: On the offensive side of the ball QB Aaron Cantu ranks among the nation’s top-50 in three categories: 14th in completion percentage at .657, 30th in completions per game with 19.6 and 49th in total passing yards with 1,449; those numbers rank second, fourth and seventh in the BSC. WR Fatu Moala is 39th in the nation and eighth in the Sky in receptions per game with 5.5.

Special Teams: Punter Brock Miller is the highest-ranked Thunderbird this week as his 43.9 yards per punt average puts him 10th in the nation and fourth in the conference. Kicker Colton Cook is 16th in the nation with 1.3 field goals per game and 38th in field goal percentage (0.769); he is second in the BSC in both categories. Griff McNabb ranks 41st in the country and fourth in the Big Sky in punt returns, with an average of 6.5 yards per attempt.

Team: In the team categories, SUU leads the Big Sky in four categories, including fumbles lost with one, which is also the best mark in the FCS. SUU is also first in the BSC in fumbles recovered with 10 (sixth in the FSC), in turnovers gained (8th) with 20, and in rushing defense (21st) at 124.6 ypg.

SUU is second in the BSC in six more categories, including red zone defense (5th in the FCS) at 65.4 percent, time of possession (12th) at 32:55, passes intercepted (10th) with 10, completion percentage (16th) at .652, and fewest penalty yards per game (21st) with 41.6.

SUU also ranks third in the Big Sky and fourth in the nation in net punting average (43.8 ypp), third in the BSC and ninth in the nation in turnover margin at plus-1.0, and third in the BSC (26th in the nation) in scoring defense (21.6 ppg). In addition to those rankings SUU is sixth in the BSC and 29th in the FCS in fourth down conversion percentage at .625.

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 two points to rank 38th in the coaches poll and 16 points to rank 36th in the Sports Network poll this week.

Records Watch: 

• 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. He has subsequently succeeded on five more tries to put the record at 43. His four points at EWU gave him 202 for his career to move him out of a tie with Kelvin Minefee (1988-89) into seventh place, three points behind Dave Pretzer’s 205 from 1999 to 2002. He also has 73 PAT which puts him in fourth place on SUU’s career list, 33 behind Steve Pulver (2003-07).

• Senior WR Fatu Moala moved into fifth place on a pair of career lists at Northern Colorado and after the two subsequent games he has 135 receptions for 1,665 yards. He is 411 yards behind Bob Stookey (1988-91) and eight receptions behind A.J. Smith (2003-04) for fourth place on  both respective lists. Moala is also knocking on the door of another list as he needs just one touchdown to move into a tie for ninth in SUU’s career receiving TDs list (he is currently 11th with 10).

• Senior punter Brock Miller’s seven punts for 297 yards at Eastern Washington dropped his career average from 43.22 yards per punt to 43.187 but it is still the SUU record. Trevor Ward, who last played in 2009, is second at 42.3 ypp.

Scouting the Bengals: 

At 3-4 overall and 1-3 in conference play Idaho State is one of the most improved teams in the Big Sky this year. After taking over a 1-10 team in 2011 Coach Kramer has rebuilt the team, enduring a 2-9 season in 2011 and a 1-10 campaign last year but the Bengals need just one more win this year to equal their total from the past three seasons combined and to pass their total of conference wins since 2010.

The Idaho State passing offense has nearly always been prolific, even through the lean years, and this season is no different. The Bengals have been among the nation’s leading passing teams the past four seasons and this year they are averaging 336.3 yards per game through the air, which leads the Big Sky and ranks fifth overall in the nation. The Bengals add another 82.6 yards per game on the ground for an average of 418.9 total yards per game.

Defensively Idaho State has allowed opponents virtually as many yards as it has gained, with the opposition averaging 417.9 yards per game, with 173.3 of those coming on the ground and 244.6 coming through the air.

Junior quarterback Justin Arias has completed 200-of-346 passes for 2,352 yards and 15 touchdowns with seven interceptions. Wide receivers Cam Richmond and Luke Austin – both seniors – have been Arias’ favorite targets. Richmond has 44 receptions for 547 yards while Austin has caught 40 balls for 552 yards. Richmond averages 12.4 yards per reception with four touchdowns while Austin averages 13.8 yards per catch with six scores. Redshirt freshman Broc Malcom catches his share of passes as well, with 37 receptions for 402 yards, a 10.9 yards-per-catch average, and a score and true frosh Chad Hansen has 24 catches for 241 yards and two TDs.

Sophomore running back Xavier Finney has been the team’s primary ball-carrier, with 121 rushing attempts for 537 yards and three touchdowns, and junior Aaron Prier – who averages 27.7 yards per kickoff return – has 102 yards on 33 carries out of the backfield.

Defensively the Bengals have been led by junior linebacker Mitch Beckstead, who has tallied 62 tackles a team-best two interceptions and five passes broken up. He is also second on the team in tackles for loss with five, just behind junior defensive end Austin Graves, who has 8.5 TFL, including five sacks, among his 40 total tackles. Sophomore strong safety Cody Sorensen also has 40 tackles with four passes broken up while senior free safety Tanner Davis has 38 tackles and the team’s other interception and senior LB Trevor Spence has 38 stops. Senior cornerback Cameron Gupton has been another impact player, leading the team with six passes broken up while tallying 32 tackles, including three for losses and a couple of sacks.