Quickly: Southern Utah travels down I-15 to pay a visit to its closest geographical NCAA Division I foe Saturday, as the Thunderbirds visit UNLV for a 6:00 p.m. (PDT) game against the Rebels.
Southern Utah (2-1/0-0 Great West) is coming off a 45-22 home win over UT-San Antonio. The Thunderbirds fell behind 7-0 after giving up a touchdown to the Roadrunners on their first drive of the game, but SUU responded with 38 straight points to win going away. At 2-1, the Thunderbirds are off to their best start under head coach Ed Lamb, and their best start since the 2006 team opened 2-1.
UNLV (1-2) will be playing its second straight home game after hosting Hawaii last week. The Rebels ran out to a 17-0 lead against the Warriors and never looked back in posting a 40-20 win. The win broke a season-opening two-game and overall five-game losing streak for the Rebels. UNLV opened with a loss at Wisconsin, then traveled to Washington State and again came up empty in the season’s first two weeks.
The Game: Southern Utah (2-1) at UNLV (1-2), Saturday at 6:00 p.m. (Pacific), Sam Boyd Stadium (36,800/TurfTech).
The Series: This is the first meeting between the two schools in football since the 1970 season. UNLV holds a 3-0 lead in the series and is 2-0 in games played in Las Vegas. The Rebels took a 26-17 home win in the initial meeting, back in 1968, UNLV’s first season of football, then won in Cedar City, 30-12 in 1969 and claimed a 28-6 victory in the last meeting, in 1970.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 435-586-7753.
Television: Saturday’s game will be televised live on The Mountain.
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 are available over the Thunderbird Sports Network. SUU flagship station Power 91 (KSUU, 91.1 FM) carries every game live as well as on the worldwide web at www.suu.edu/ksuu. Art Challis is in 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 in the Legacy Room in the home of President Michael Benson. 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: Coach Ed Lamb is Eric Ripley’s guest on a weekly radio coaches show each Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. on Power 91. The coaches show is broadcast live from Sonny Boy’s Barbecue, 126 No. Main in Cedar City. Fans in attendance will be eligible for gift certificates and prizes throughout the show.
Next Up/Remaining Schedule:
Following the UND game the T-Birds have three straight on the road, at GWC opponents South Dakota (Oct. 8) and Cal Poly (Oct. 15), then at future Big Sky foe 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).
UNLV’s Bobby Hauck (Montana, 1988) brings a 3-13 mark at UNLV and an 83-30 overall record as a head coach into the game. Prior to taking over the Rebel program, Coach Hauck spent seven seasons as head coach at the University of Montana where he won three national FCS championships. Coach Hauck is 2-0 against the Thunderbirds.
Affiliations: Southern Utah is in its eighth and final season in the Great West Conference (NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision). 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. UNLV is a member of the Mountain West Conference (NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision).
Captains: This year’s captains are senior defensive end Tyler Osborne, senior safety Erron Vonner and senior running back Daryl Brown.
GWC Players of the Week:
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 was named 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.
Senior 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:
Defense: LB Chad Hansen ranks 49th in tackles with an average of 9.7 per game.
Offense: On the offensive side of the ball, QB Brad Sorensen ranks sixth in completions per game and total passing yards, with 27.0 cpg and 898 yards, eighth in passing yards per game with 299.3, 13th in total offense with 292.3 yards per game, 18th in passing efficiency at 153.36 and 25th in points responsible for with 14.7 ppg. Brady Measom ranks ninth in punt returns, with an average of 16.9 yards per return (he actually should rank higher, due to a scorer’s error, which wasn’t corrected until Sunday, he was credited with a team return vs. UTSA), Austin Minefee is 10th in kickoff returns, with an average of 31.7 ypr. Minefee is also 40th in scoring, at 8.0 ppg and 46th in all-purpose yards, at 131.7 ypg. WR Jared Ursua ranks in four categories, 14th in receptions per game (7.0), 17th in total receiving yards (263), 29th in receiving yards per game (87.7) and he is tied with Minefee for 40th in scoring with 8.0 ppg.
Special Teams: Kicker Colton Cook is tied for 33rd in field goals per game at 1.0, and punter Tate Lewis needs one more punt to qualify for the rankings but his 41.8 ypp average would rank 25th.
Team: In the team categories SUU ranks ninth in passing offense (305.3 ypg), 12th in punt returns (16.9 ypr), 16th in kickoff returns (26.1 ypg), 19th in scoring (36.0 ppg) and turnover margin (plus 1.0), 21st in net punting (37.8 ypr) and 23rd in both passing efficiency (145.2) and pass efficiency defense (105.8). SUU also ranks 28th in passing yards allowed per game (168.0), 29th in total offense (405.0 ypg), 39th in scoring defense (21.7 ppg) and 45th in total defense (332.0 ypg).
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.
Thunderbirds Break Into TSN Top-25: Southern Utah has broken into The Sports Network’s top-25 for the first time in over a decade. The Thunderbirds are ranked #23 this week after garnering 546 points in TSN’s poll of media and sports information directors. The last time SUU was ranked was way back in 1998, when the Thunderbirds were ranked 24th on Sept. 14, after a season-opening win at then-No. 2 Montana.
Brad Sorensen and the Air Attack:
Although Sorensen 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 has spread the wealth in the last two games. Against Sacramento State nine different players caught passes, and against UTSA that number increased to 10. Redshirt freshman Easton Pedersen, sophomore Fatu Moala, a transfer from Utah, and junior Cameron Morgan, a converted cornerback, all caught their first passes as a Thunderbird vs. Sac State, while juniors Kaden Carli and Dylan Fox both had their first collegiate receptions vs. UTSA.
• Sophomore linebacker Chad Hansen was in double-figures in tackles in each of the first two games, and although he didn’t hit double-figures against UTSA, he did lead the team for the second time in three games, with seven stops. In his first start as a Thunderbird at South Dakota State 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. He tallied 10 tackles (including a TFL), with six solo stops and a quarterback hurry against Sacramento State.
• 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 Jeff 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.
Thunderbird Quick Hits:
• WR Jared Ursua caught two TD passes against UTSA and led the team in receptions with six. It is the second time this season he has led the team in receptions as well as the second time he has caught two scoring tosses. The first time was at South Dakota State.
• SUU rolled up a season-high 423 yards of total offense against UTSA, but neither its rushing total nor its passing total was its highest of the season. the Thunderbirds threw for 305 yards, second to its 340 at South Dakota State, and ran for 118 yards, second to its 128 vs. Sacramento State.
• The Thunderbirds’ 45 points vs. UTSA were their most since they routed Division II Dixie State, 52-0, late last season.
• After giving up four sacks at SDSU, the SUU offensive line has given up just one in the last two games.
• Austin Minefee’s kickoff return for a TD vs. Sacramento State was SUU’s first kickoff return for a score since Tremaine Cox took one 91 yards at Nevada back in 2003.
• SUU’s defense has made strides since giving up over 400 yards to South Dakota State in the opener. In the two subsequent games neither opponent has broken the 300-yard mark, with Sacramento State gaining 286 yards and UTSA 294.
• 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.
• 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. He added another, on his only attempt of the game, a 36-yarder, vs. UTSA.
• Even before his breakout game vs. UTSA, Measom, an invited walk-on, had 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. Against UTSA he caught two passes for 60 yards, including a 47-yarder, once again the team’s longest of the game.
• Freshman punter Tate Lewis 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.
• Junior free safety Brennan Fjord is another newcomer who 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.
• SUU didn’t attempt a field goal at SDSU. It was the first time since the game at Texas State last year, a span of eight games the team hadn’t attempted a 3-pointer. The TSU game was the only time in 2010 the ‘Birds didn’t attempt a field goal.
• SUU is in its 49th season as a four-year football-playing institution and its 26th as a member of the NCAA. The 2011 season also marks the Thunderbirds’ 19th as a member of the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision and is the school’s eighth in the Great West Conference.
• The opener at South Dakota State marked the seventh time in the last nine seasons the Thunderbirds have played their first game of the season on the road. Last year SUU opened at Wyoming, in 2008 the team opened at Air Force, in 2007 it was at Montana, in 2005 at Idaho State, in 2004 at Weber State and in 2003 the opener was at Nevada. The two openers at home have been against Dixie State in 2009 and in 2006 when the ‘Birds kicked off the season against Montana Tech at Eccles Coliseum.
• The Thunderbirds have six coaches’ first-team all-conference players returning, including running back Austin Minefee, offensive lineman Trevor Schauerhamer, defensive end Tyler Osborne, cornerback Dion Turner, safety Erron Vonner and junior quarterback Brad Sorensen. All but Sorensen will be seniors this fall. Osborne, Vonner and Sorensen also received first-team all-conference honors from the media, who also selected offensive linemen Gavin Farr and Zach Brackus and defensive lineman Cody Larsen. Minefee, Schauerhamer and Turner received second-team honors from the media, while Farr and Larsen were second-team selections by the coaches. Returning LB Blake Fenn earned second-team honors on both squads.
• SUU has eight returning academic all-GWC honorees, including Vonner, Fenn, Schauerhamer and Larsen, along with senior OL Brock Christensen, senior DB Zack Olsen, junior OL Russell Petersen and sophomore DL Brad Meyer.
• SUU plays all of its 11 games against NCAA Division I opponents this year, with nine against teams from the championship subdivision and two from the bowl subdivision. UNLV and UT-San Antonio are the two FBS opponents. UTSA is a first-year program which is beginning under the FBS umbrella.
Coaching Lineup: The staff returns intact for 2011, with Head Coach Ed Lamb in his fourth season on the SUU sidelines. Justin Ena, an NFL veteran and former BYU standout, will continue as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. Former BYU and Utah assistant Steve Clark will again handle offensive coordinator duties, while Paul Peterson, a former JC all-American at Snow College who was also a successful QB at Boston College, will again handle the quarterbacks and receivers as well as heading up recruiting and taking on the mantle of passing game coordinator. Ryan Hunt, a former all-conference performer at offensive tackle for SUU, returns as defensive line coach while Demario Warren, a former UC Davis running back, returns as secondary coach. Another NFL veteran and former BYU standout Teag Whiting, is in his second season as offensive line coach after working as a graduate assistant in 2009. Ronnie Pentz is in his fourth season with the team, his second co-coordinating special teams and his first as tight ends coach after working with the linebackers the past three seasons. Aaron Fernandez, an all-GWC defensive tackle in 2008, returns as a defensive assistant and assistant recruiting coordinator, while former Thunderbird standout WR/KR Justin Wattenscheid enters his second season with the team as co-special teams coordinator and running backs coach. The only newcomer to the staff is two-time all-GWC receiver Fesi Sitake, who will work with the team’s receivers while he finishes his degree.
SUU’s Eccles Coliseum is one of two football stadiums in the world sporting both the Olympic Rings and an Olympic Cauldron inside the stadium (The Los Angeles Coliseum is the other). Southern Utah’s Olympic Cauldron, donated by DCI Incorporated of Utah, was lit by the Olympic Torch Feb. 5, 2002, during the Olympic Torch Relay.
The Rebels have averaged 143.3 rushing and 128.3 passing yards per game through the first three contests, while giving up an average of 128.7 yards on the ground and 337.7 through the air.
Sophomore QB Caleb Herring (6-3, 190) is part of the youth movement as well. He has completed 46-of-76 passes for 384 yards and four touchdowns with one interception. His favorite targets have been Michael Johnson (5-8, 185, Sr) and Phillip Payne (6-3, 205, Sr). Johnson has 14 receptions for 107 yards while Payne has caught 23 balls for 130 yards and three touchdowns.
RB Tim Cornett (6-0, 200, So) has led the ground attack, with 35 carries for 209 yards and two TDs, while Bradley Randle (5-7, 195, So) has carried 39 times for 158 yards and a score and Bradford has 11 carries for 41 yards.
Defensively, UNLV has been led by a trio of players with 14 tackles each: LB Tani Maka (6-1, 240, So), LB Nate Carter (6-1, 235, Sr) and CB Sidney Hodge (5-8, 175, So). Hodge also leads the team with two passes broken up. DE James Dunlap (6-1, 260, Sr) leads the team in sacks and tackles-for-loss, with 2.5 sacks and 1.5 TFLs.
Coach Ed Lamb On The Thunderbirds:
“It was a fantastic effort [against UTSA], especially by our ones. I was a little bit disappointed coming out of the game that our twos didn’t match up better, didn’t play better. I think we have much more depth than we showed Saturday, and that’s the big area of emphasis this week.
“This [UNLV] game is a great challenge for our guys. It will be a game they’ve been looking forward to. We’ve got a lot of players from that area, and this is that area, so I think there’s some regional excitement and I know a lot of our players’ parents and friends are planning on being at the game.”
Coach Lamb on the Rebels:
“UNLV started [the season] off pretty rocky, but in their first home game this past weekend beat a very good Hawaii team 40-20. Hawaii has one of the best passing offenses in the country, they have a Heisman-caliber quarterback ... and UNLV really had their way with them in every way, offense, defense and special teams. The final score was 40-20 but it wasn’t really that close, UNLV was never threatened at all.”