T-Birds Spoil Bears’ Homecoming

GREELEY, Colo., Sept. 28 – Aaron Cantu completed 28-of-38 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns and Tyree Mills intercepted two passes as Southern Utah spoiled Northern Colorado’s homecoming with a 27-21 Big Sky Conference win Saturday afternoon.

After giving up over 400 yards to Washington State and Sacramento State over the past two weeks Southern Utah’s defense held Northern Colorado to 273 yards, including just four on the ground, the fewest allowed to a Division I team in SUU history.

Meanwhile Cantu had career-highs in both completions and yards. He connected with Griff McNabb on a 12-yard TD pass to stake SUU to a 17-7 lead near the end of the second quarter, then hooked up with Easton Pedersen on a 17-yarder to put the advantage at 24-14 midway through the third.

SUU also got a one-yard TD run from Levi Te’o and a pair of Colton Cook field goals.

While Cook’s field goals were the SUU-record 39th and 40th of his career, Te’o’s and McNabbs touchdowns were their firsts of the season and the first of Te’o’s career.

Southern Utah went up 3-0 on the first Cook field goal late in the first period – a season-long 48 yarder – then after an SUU turnover in its own end the Bears went up 7-3 when Tim Tancick found Jace Davis on a 19-yard touchdown pass early in the second period.

SUU wrestled the lead back with 1:02 to go in the half when Cantu and McNabb hooked up, then after forcing a three-and-out by the Bears they struck again, taking advantage of a short punt to go up 17-7 on McNabb’s touchdown with 15 seconds to play in the half.

UNC took the opening kickoff of the second half and drove 75 yards to pull within 17-14 on a 1-yard Tancik run, but the Thunderbirds answered with a 65-yard scoring drive, pushing the lead back to 10, 24-14, on the Pedersen TD.

SUU extended the lead to 27-14 on a 36-yard Cook field goal with 6:08 to play but the Bear’s kept their hopes alive when Tencik found Dimitri Stimphill in the back of the end zone for a touchdown with 58 seconds to play.

UNC’s last hopes were dashed, however, when the on-side kick attempt sailed out of bounds, allowing the Thunderbirds to kill the clock.

Zak Browning led the SUU defense with 13 tackles, including four solo stops and a half sack, while Matt Holley had eight tacikles and a TFL, Chad Hansen had seven and a TFL. Robert Torgerson, Adrew Eide and James Cowser each had a sack as the Thunderbirds tallied a season-high four.

With the win SUU moved to 1-0 in Big Sky play and 4-1 overall, matching the best start by a Thunderbird team in its Division I era. Northern Colorado dipped to 0-1 in the BSC and 1-4 overall.

-- SUU --