Homecoming 2011: Football Hosts UTSA

September 13, 2011
By SUU Strategic Communication

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Brock Christensen (76) and Brad Sorensen
Brock Christensen (76) and Brad Sorensen
Courtesy: SUU Publications

Quickly: Southern Utah University hosts first-time opponent Texas-San Antonio this weekend in the school’s annual homecoming game. The Roadrunners, who are in their first season of football and are debuting at the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision level, will be the first FBS-level team to play in Cedar City.

Saturday’s game will be televised live on My Utah TV (KMYU).

Southern Utah (1-1/0-0 Great West) is coming off a 35-14 home-opening win over Sacramento State last week. The Thunderbirds bounced back from a 29-28 season-opening loss at South Dakota State with a dominant effort against the No. 12 Hornets, holding them to 286 yards of total offense, 125 in the second half, while piling up 399 yards of their own. Brad Sorensen completed 30-of-37 passes for 271 yards in the game, while the Thunderbird running backs ran for four touchdowns (one on a kickoff return) in the effort.

UT San Antonio (1-1) rolled to a 31-3 win over Northeastern (Oklahoma) State on Sept. 3, but dropped a 24-21 decision last week to McMurry. The Roadrunners amassed 487 yards of offense against McMurry while allowing 375 to the War Hawks – including just three on the ground – but missed first half scoring opportunities with a pair of missed field goals and an interception and also gave up a late score on a blocked punt return. UTSA battled back from a 10-0 halftime deficit and led 21-17 with 3:02 to play but McMurry scored with 19 seconds to go to steal the victory.

Thunderbird Practice Schedule: The players are off on Mondays. Daily practices Tuesday through Thursday are scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. and end at 6:15 p.m.

Media Availability: Players and coaches are available for interviews on Tuesdays following practice, at approximately 6:15 p.m. To contact a player or coach on another day or time contact Neil Gardner at gardner@suu.edu or 435-586-7753.

The Game: UT San Antonio (0-2) at Southern Utah (1-1), Saturday at 6:00 p.m. (Mountain), Eccles Coliseum (8,500, grass).

The Series: This is the first meeting between the two schools in football.

Catch SUU’s Home Games on My Utah TV: All of Southern Utah’s home games will be televised by My Utah TV (KMYU), which is available over the air and via cable and satellite. In southern Utah it is available over the air on Digital channel 2.2 and 12.1 and in Utah it is available on the following cable outlets: Comcast (channel 22), Baja (20) and Bresnan (18). It is also available in Utah on Dish Network, channel 12.
Radio: All of Southern Utah’s 2011 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. Art Challis is entering his 35th season as the Thunderbirds' football voice. Dave McMullin, a former all-conference defensive lineman for the Thunderbirds, provides color commentary.

Video Highlights: Video highlights of the Thunderbirds’ 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.

GWC Teleconference: The Great West Conference holds a weekly teleconference, beginning at 12:45 p.m. (Mountain). The conference’s head coaches all address their previous and upcoming games. For information on accessing the teleconferences, contact SUU Director of Athletic Media Relations Neil Gardner. The schedule follows:
    12:45 p.m. - Introduction by Commissioner Ed Grom
    12:47 p.m. - Cal Poly coach Tim Walsh
    12:55 p.m. - South Dakota coach Ed Meierkort
    1:03 p.m. - North Dakota coach Chris Mussman
    1:11 p.m. - Southern Utah coach Ed Lamb
    1:19 p.m. - UC Davis coach Bob Biggs

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.

Sonny Boy’s Coaches Show: This season Coach Ed Lamb will appear with host Eric Ripley on a weekly radio coaches show each Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. on Power 91. The Coaches show will broadcast live from Sonny Boy’s Barbecue, 126 No. Main in Cedar City. Fans in attendance will be eligible for Sonny Boy’s gift certificates and prizes throughout the show.

Next Up/Remaining Schedule:

Southern Utah travels down I-15 for a match-up with UNLV next weekend.

Following the UNLV game the Thunderbirds open their final Great West Conference season at home at 1:00 p.m. on Oct. 1 when they host North Dakota, followed by conference games at South Dakota (Oct. 8) and Cal Poly (Oct. 15), and a third straight road game at Weber State (Oct. 22).

The T-Birds wrap up their GWC and home slates the following weekend when they host UC Davis on Oct. 29, before a bye week, Nov 5. The final two regular-season games have the Thunderbirds at Northern Iowa (Nov. 12) and Northern Arizona (Nov. 19).

The Coaches: A 2010 Eddie Robinson Award nominee, SUU's Ed Lamb (BYU, 1996) has a record of 16-19 early in his fourth season as the Thunderbird head coach and his fourth season as a head coach overall. Last year Lamb guided the Thunderbirds to their first-ever Great West Conference championship and their most successful season since 2004 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. Prior to his time at USD Lamb spent two seasons as defensive coordinator at Idaho. He also served 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. This is Lamb’s first game against UTSA.

UTSA’s Larry Coker (Northeastern State, 1970) brings a 1-1 record at UTSA and an overall mark of 63-14 into the game. Prior to taking over the Roadrunner program, Coach Coker spent six seasons as head coach at the University of Miami.

Affiliations: Southern Utah is in its eighth and final season in the Great West Conference after eight seasons as an NCAA Division I (FCS) independent. The Thunderbirds will join the Big Sky Conference next season. SUU is affiliated with The Summit League in all its other sports except women's gymnastics, which competes in the Western Athletic Conference. UTSA is a football independent but a member of the Southland Conference in its other 16 sports. The Roadrunners move to the WAC next season.

Captains: This year’s captains are senior defensive end Tyler Osborne, senior safety Erron Vonner and senior running back Daryl Brown.

Alexander Named GWC Player of the Week: Southern Utah running back Deckar Alexander earned a pair of player of the week awards for his performance against Sacramento State. He earned the offensive player of the week honor from the conference office and the overall GWC player of the week award from College Sports Madness. Alexander, a 5-foot-7, 190-pound running back from Fontana, Calif. (Menlo College/Henry J. Kaiser HS) carried 18 times for 78 yards and two touchdowns, and also caught five passes for 23 more yards in the win. His first TD was a 12-yard run that gave the Thunderbirds their first lead of the game, 10-7, while his second score iced the game with 1:40 to play, a 3-yard run that gave the 'Birds the 35-14 advantage.

College Performance Awards: Senior Austin Minefee has been named this week’s National Kickoff Returner of the Week by College Football Performance Awards for his play in the Thunderbirds’ 35-14 win over No. 12 Sacramento State. Minefee helped spark the Thunderbirds to the win with a 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown late in the second quarter. Minefee returned three kickoffs in the game, for a total of 121 yards and finished with 195 all-purpose yards, including 47 rushing and 27 receiving.

Wide receiver Jared Ursua was named to the College Performance Awards national honor roll for his play at South Dakota State. Ursua, a senior wide receiver from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, caught a career-high nine passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns in the game.

SUU In The FCS National Ranks: 

SUU has nine players ranked among the FCS top-50 in 11 major statistical categories following the first week’s games, while the team figured among the top-50 programs in 11 categories and among the top-30 in five.
Defense: LB Chad Hansen ranks 15th in tackles with an average of 11.0 per game while LB Blake Fenn is 20th with a 10.5 tpg average. SS Erron Vonner and DT Cody Larsen are tied for 24th in interceptions with 0.5 per game.

Offense: On the offensive side of the ball, QB Brad Sorensen ranks fourth in completions per game with 30.5 per game, ninth in passing yards per game with 305.5, eighth in total passing yards with 611, 11th in total offense with 299.0 yards per game, 29th in points responsible for with 13.0 and 31st in passing efficiency with a rating of 140.03. WR Jared Ursua ranks 13th in receptions per game (7.5) and 20th in receiving yards per game (98.0), while Brady Measom and Austin Minefee are tied in 38th in receptions per game with 6.0 per contest. Minefee is also 29th in all-purpose yards with an average of 145.0 per game.

Special Teams: Kicker Colton Cook is tied for 32nd in field goals per game at 1.0, and punter Tate Lewis needs one more punt to qualify for the rankings but his 41.0 ypp average would rank 27th.

Team: In the team categories SUU ranks 12th in passing offense (305.5 ypg), 13th in kickoff returns (27.8 ypr), 19th in turnover margin (plus-1.0), 27th in scoring offense (31.5 ppg), and 30th in total offense (396.0 ypg). SUU also ranks 36th in pass efficiency defense (108.76), 37th in passing efficiency (136.77) and sacks (2.0 spg), 40th in pass defense (178.5 ypg), 42nd in scoring defense (21.5 ppg), and 50th in net punting (35.25 ypp).

Preseason Accolades: Quarterback Brad Sorensen and defensive end Tyler Osborne both received pre-season all-America honors from Consensus Draft Services. In addition, Sorensen is on the Payton Award Watch List and was named the pre-season offensive player of the year by the GWC Coaches.

SUU Picked To Repeat In GWC Coaches Poll: Southern Utah earned two first place votes and wound up with 20 points to edge Cal Poly, which had 19 points (and two first-place votes), as the coaches favorite to win the conference title this season. UC Davis received the other first-place vote and finished third with 17 points, while South Dakota was tabbed to finish fourth with 13 points and North Dakota received six points.

Last season the Thunderbirds finished 4-0 to win their first GWC championship, followed by UC Davis at 3-1, Cal Poly at 2-2, South Dakota at 1-3 and North Dakota at 0-4.

Thunderbird Quick Hits:

Austin Minefee sparked the Thunderbirds against Sacramento State with a 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the second period. The return came after the Hornets had driven 80 yards for a touchdown to go  up 14-10, but CSUS didn’t score again after the return. Minefee, who also carried 13 times for 47 yards and caught seven passes for 27 more, wound up with a team-high 195 all-purpose yards against the Hornets. He earned College Football Performance Awards National Kick Returner of the Week honors for his performance.

• Minefee’s return was SUU’s first kickoff return for a score since Tremaine Cox took one 91 yards at Nevada back in 2003.

• SUU’s defense made a tremendous team effort against Sacramento State. A week after the Hornets piled up 367 yards of offense at Oregon State, SUU’s defense held Sac State to 286 yards, including just 125 in the second half. QB Jeff Fleming was just 10-of-27 passing, for 78 yards. He completed 22-of-35 passes for 257 yards and three TDs at Oregon State, with six tosses going to Brandyn Reed (one for a TD) and six more going to Morris Norisse. Reed caught one pass on Saturday, and Norisse, last year’s leading receiver, didn’t catch a pass.

Tyler Osborne had a big hand in the defensive effort against Sac State. He tallied five tackles, two solo, with a solo sack, a half-sack and another tackle-for loss. He also recovered a fumble that led to a score and had two quarterback hurries. On Sacramento State’s first drive he and Jeff Tukuafu set the tone for the SUU defense when they combined to sack CSUS QB Jeff Flemming for a 4-yard loss on third-and-eight. His solo sack also came on third down, with the Hornets facing third-and-seven and looking to add to a 7-3 lead; the sack forced a punt and SUU capitalized, driving for Deckar Alexander’s first score on the ensuing drive. Then in the fourth quarter he had a pair of QB hurries to help squash the Hornets’ come-back hopes.

• Senior LB Blake Fenn led SUU with 12 tackles vs. Sacramento State. He also had a quarterback hurry, as the Thunderbirds harassed Fleming all afternoon, sacking him twice, tackling him in the backfield on a bootleg once, tallying seven hurries and forcing him to scramble in passing situations a handful of times.

Tyree Mills, a redshirt sophomore cornerback who got his first action as a T-Bird at SDSU, had a team-high three pass deflections against Sacramento State. Herman Sword also had one, as did Dion Turner, who broke up his pass in the end zone on a diving play in the fourth quarter.

• Sophomore linebacker Chad Hansen has been in double-figures in tackles in each of the first two games after tallying 10 (including a TFL), with six solo stops and a quarterback hurry against Sacramento State. He made his first start as a Thunderbird at South Dakota State, and although the team came out on the wrong end of the decision, the game should be memorable for him. He led the Thunderbirds with 12 tackles, seven solo, and broke up a pass but his biggest play came with under three minutes to go and the Jackrabbits running out the clock when he hit SDSU running back Tyrel Kool in the backfield, forcing a fumble that Blake Fenn recovered, leading to SUU’s final score of the game.

• Colton Cook hit 2-of-3 field goal attempts against Sacramento State, including his first two attempts, which were his first field goal attempts in a college football game. He was true from 27 and 36 yards but pulled a 25-yarder.

• Brad Sorensen is off to a good start. Although he didn’t throw a TD pass against Sacramento State he was nearly perfect otherwise, completing 30-of-37 passes for 271 yards without an interception. Two of the incompletions were throw-aways. The 30 completions tied his third-highest total in a game, the seventh-highest total in SUU history. He completed 31-of-46 passes for 340 yards and three touchdowns at South Dakota State. He overcame four sacks and three interceptions earlier in the game to rally team from 29-7 fourth-quarter deficit by completing 13-of-21 attempts and throwing  two TD passes, including what could have been the game-winner with 2 seconds remaining. The team went for two but receiver Daryl Brown wasn’t able to hang onto the ball in the end zone with a defender over his back. On the final drive he completed seven straight passes, including the TD toss. The 340 yards are Sorensen’s fourth-best single-game total and are eighth-best in school history, while the 31 completions represent his second-highest total and the fifth-most in school history.

• Sorensen spread the wealth against Sacramento State, as nine different players caught passes, including redshirt freshman Easton Pedersen, sophomore Fatu Moala, a transfer from Utah, and junior Cameron Morgan, a converted cornerback, who all caught their first passes as a Thunderbird. TE Abbel Aiono, who missed much of the preseason and the SDSU game with a pulled hamstring, also caught his first pass of the season.

• Walk-on freshman receiver Brady Measom has certainly made his mark in the first two games. He won the punt return job in camp and got an opportunity to move into the receivers rotation because of injuries. He made the most of his opportunity, catching seven passes for 48 yards at SDSU, then leading the team with 93 yards on five more catches against Sac State, including a 56-yarder, the team’s long this season. He’s also averaged 5.3 yards on three punt returns in the two games.

• Freshman punter Tate Lewis also had a memorable first game. He punted four times for 164 yards, an average of 41.0 ypp. On his first punt he was up against the back of the end zone and the snap was a little high and wide, he handled it, however, and boomed a 48-yarder. He also scrambled out on a run/punt option, made the correct choice and kicked it rugby style into the wind for his shortest kick of the night, a 38-yarder. None of his punts were returned. Lewis’ first punt was blocked against Sacramento State, but he got two more off without a problem later in the game, with both traveling his average of 41 yards.

• Junior free safety Brennan Fjord is another newcomer who has had an impact in the first two games. After tallying four tackles, three solo, at SDSU, Fjord had six stops, three solo, against Sacramento State, the third-best tally on the team. He also recovered a fumble in the fourth quarter to help preserve the Thunderbird victory.

• A week after giving up four sacks at SDSU, the SUU offensive line gave up just one against Sac State. The Hornets had two sacks in their win at Oregon State on Sept. 3.

• The tables were also turned in time of possession in the first two games. At SDSU the ‘Birds had the ball for just 25:22 while the Jackrabbits controlled it for 34:38. Against CSUS, SUU had the ball for 34:11 to 25:49 for the Hornets.

Roadrunner Notes: Saturday’s game will be the first road game in the program’s history. The Roadrunners opened at home in the Alamo Dome before 56,743 fans, which is an NCAA record for attendance at a program’s opening home game. In that game they handled Division II Northeastern State 31-3, then last week, also at home, they lost to Division III McMurry, 24-21, in front of 31,634 fans.

Through the first two games UTSA has run the ball 77 times for 368 yards and passed it 57 times for 492 yards, averages of 184.0 ypg on the ground and 246.0 through the air, for an impressive 430 total yards per game. The leading rusher has been quarterback Eric Soza (6-1, 200, So), who has carried 26 times for 153 yards and a touchdown, while tailback David Glasco II (5-10, 195, RSFr) has carried 14 times for 76 yards and two scores.

Soza’s favorite target when he goes to the air has been WR Brandon Freeman (5-10, 155, Fr), with eight catches for 78 yard and a TD. Three receivers have five receptions each, Kam Jones (6-0, 190, RSFr), CheRod Simpson (6-0, 195, So) and Brandon Armstrong (5-6, 160 RSFr). Jones has piled up 110 yards, Simpson has 68 and Armstrong has 56. Jones and Simpson have each scored a receiving touchdown.

Defensively the Roadrunners have been very tough against the run, allowing just 36 yards on the ground in the opening win vs. Northeastern State and three last week vs. McMurry. The two previous opponents have had success throwing the football, however, as the ‘Runners have given up an average of 321.5 passing yards per game.

Middle linebacker Steven Kurfehs (6-3, 225, So) leads the team in tackles with 16, while OLB Brandon Reeves (5-10, 220 Jr) has 14 stops. Cornerback Darrien Starling (5-9, 180, Fr), strong safety Nic Johnston (6-2, 190, RSFr) and end Marlon Smith (6-6, 225, Jr) each have 13 tackles. Starling has the team’s lone interception so far, while Smith and Johnston are 1-2 on the team in tackles-for-loss. Smith has 4.5 TFLs, including four sacks, while Johnston has 2.5 TFLs.

Coach Ed Lamb On The Thunderbirds: “I think every team I’ve been around … has always played well after a loss. We have those type of players here, that after a loss really concentrate. Our guys have worked too hard and have experienced too much success to really get down on themselves or each other and they came with a renewed sense of purpose and we had a really great week of preparation.

Austin Minefee and Deckar Alexander had really strong games running the ball. We can still get much better in that area but I thought it was encouraging to see our offensive line improve from week one to week two and I thought our quarterback did a really good job of getting us into the correct running plays.

“I thought our secondary rotations improved much from our first week. Against South Dakota State … there were times when our secondary support on the run and the short pass was late and we allowed some short passes to go further than they should have gone, yardage-wise. Also, we exposed ourselves in the first week of the season by not having our deep players deep enough, so I thought our secondary really executed well and improved in those areas.

“I think a high percentage of the time our secondary took away the first option from Sacramento State, and that allowed our defensive line to get going. There were only two sacks in the game but there was some very significant pressure and a lot of hits on their quarterback; Sacramento State has a really good quarterback.”

Coach Lamb on the Roadrunners: “They had a very impressive victory in week one. They’ve played a Division II opponent and a Division III opponent so far but we’re trying to look at them for what they are and not necessarily for who they’ve played.

“They have a very high talent level on offense and they have speed and size at all positions. If there’s an advantage that we have I hope it’s that we are older and more mature. As a start-up program, most of their players are in their redshirt freshman or sophomore years, they have a handful of transfers, they’re increasing the age of their program but they’re a good young team that I think is looking to find their stride and they probably see this week as the perfect opportunity to do that.

“Coach Coker has had a lot of experience. He won a national championship at Miami ... he has a group of good, talented players, a group that will possibly be a bowl team in two or three years.

“We need to take care of our assignments, we’ll have to play pretty well. We learned a good lesson in week one: anyone can beat us.”