CEDAR CITY, Utah, Oct. 6 - Southern Utah threw for a season-high 327 yards and had 388 yards of total offense, its second-highest total of the season, but Sacramento State outgained SUU 244-127 in the second half to come back from a 16-7 halftime deficit and hand the Thunderbirds their second straight loss, 27-22.
Sacramento State improved to 4-2 overall and 2-1 in Big Sky Conference play while the Thunderbirds dipped to 2-4 and 1-2 in conference games.
The Thunderbirds seemed to take control of the game in the second quarter when they got two Colton Cook field goals and a 28-yard touchdown pass from Brad Sorensen to Griff McNabb to take a 16-7 lead into the break.
The advantage could have been bigger, as the Thunderbirds missed a golden opportunity to put a touchdown on the board rather than a field goal when Sorensen hooked up with Mitch Jessop on the team's longest play of the year, an 82-yard pass play that put the ball on the Hornet one-yard line.
Sac State cornerback Osagie Odiase made a touchdown-saving tackle as Jessop dove for the end zone, and it proved to be a huge tackle. On first down Sorensen bobbled the snap and the Thunderbirds wound up taking a 5-yard loss, then on second and third downs Brian Wilson then ran three and one yards and the Thunderbirds wound up settling for the field goal to pull within 7-6.
SUU took the lead on the McNabb touchdown, his first as a Thunderbird, then tacked on a 43-yard Cook field goal as time expired in the half to take all the momentum into the break.
Hornet quarterback Garrett Safron got the momentum back for the Hornets on the first drive of the second half, however, as on first-and-10 from his own 37 yard line he took a quarterback draw up the middle, then outran the defense to pull the Hornets within 16-14.
The play changed the game in a few ways, SUU Coach Ed Lamb said.
"Number one I thought we had a controlling lead at halftime, and that changed the whole dynamic of the game and ignited their sidelines, credit their quarterback for running away from our defense," Lamb noted.
"The other thing it did was it was the first time they'd run the quarterback draw in the game, and it gave them a go-to play, and on at least two third downs they converted on quarterback runs," he added. "So it opened up a new facet of the game. It was a good adjustment by their coaching staff and great execution by their quarterback."
Southern Utah extended the lead to 22-14 on a one-yard Brian Wilson run midway through the third, but missed the extra point, Cook's first missed PAT of the season, after a false start backed the T-Birds up five yards.
Safron scored again on an eight-yard run late in the third to pull the Hornets within 22-20 after their two-point conversion failed, and AJ Ellis gave the Hornets the lead for good on a two-yard run with 9:18 to play.
"I don't think there's very much positive that's going to come from the outcome of the game," Lamb said. "From a motivational standpoint this is going to hurt. We expected to compete for a championship, we expected to earn a playoff selection, both of those are done, and at this point we are playing for each other, and pride for the rest of the season to demonstrate our own personal and team toughness."
NOTES: Sorensen completed 20-of-32 passes for 327 yards and one touchdown. He was intercepted late in the game when a ball sailed out of his hands as he was trying to avoid a sack and Sacramento State linebacker Jeff Badger came down with it ... freshman J.T. Anderson notched his first career interception, becoming the sixth Thunderbird to pick of his first career pass this year ... junior safety Tommy Collet, Jr., also had an interception, his second of the season and the second of his career ... freshman linebacker Mike Needham led the team with a career-high 11 tackles, eight solo, while Brennan Fjord had a season-high 10 tackles.
-- SUU --