Quickly: Southern Utah will look to get off to its best start since the team moved to NCAA Division I competition when the Thunderbirds host UC Davis in a Big Sky Conference game at Eccles Coliseum on Saturday afternoon.

Southern Utah (4-1/1-0 Big Sky) held off Northern Colorado 27-21 last week to spoil the Bears’ homecoming and equal the best record after five games since the 1997 Thunderbird squad started 4-1. The win gave the Thunderbirds back-to-back road wins and victories in three of four road games this season. SUU has also begun its Big Sky season with wins in the two seasons it has been a member of the conference. 

UC Davis (1-4/1-0 Big Sky) broke into the winning column for the first time last week but the win was a big one, a 30-13 home victory over Idaho State in both teams’ Big Sky opener. The Aggies began the season with a pair of road losses, 10-7 at South Dakota and 36-7 at Nevada, then lost a pair of home non-conference decisions to Northern Arizona (21-10) and Portland State (41-10).

The Game: UC Davis (1-4/1-0) at Southern Utah (4-1/1-0), Saturday at 1:05 p.m. (MDT) 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 www.suu.edu/ksuu. Dr. Art Challis, who is in his 40th season as the Voice of the Thunderbirds provides the play-by-play.

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 WatchBigSky.com: Internet telecasts of all of SUU’s home games as well as its Big Sky road games are available through WatchBigSky.com (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 WatchBigSky.com). Viewers who had an account with BigSkyTV will be able to use that account to access WatchBigSky.com.

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 gardner@suu.edu 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: Saturday’s game will mark the 17th meeting between the two teams. UC Davis holds a 10-6 edge in the series, but the Thunderbirds are 5-3 at home and have won three in a row in the series, including a 34-3 victory the last time the two met, in 2011 in Cedar City. SUU’s only win at Davis came in 2010 when the T-Birds won 55-24 in the game that clinched the Thunderbirds’ Great West conference championship.

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:

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 play two straight at home for the first time this season as they host Portland State in the annual Homecoming contest next week.

Following a road trip to Eastern Washington on Oct. 19, the ‘Birds return home for a game against Idaho State on Oct. 26 before a bye the week of Nov. 2. The final two road games of the season, at Weber State (Nov. 9) and Montana State (Nov. 16) follow.

The regular season wraps up with a home game against Northern Arizona (Nov. 23).

The Coaches:

A 2010 Eddie Robinson Award nominee, SUU's Ed Lamb (BYU, 1996) has a record of 30-30 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 3-1 vs. the Aggies.

UC Davis’s Ron Gould (Oregon, 1988) is 1-4 in his first season at the helm of the Aggie program and in his first season as a head coach. Coach Gould is 0-0 vs. the Thunderbirds. 

Affiliations: Southern Utah is a member of the Big Sky Conference in the majority of its sports, including football (gymnastics is an independent while men’s golf will compete in the American Sky Conference this season). UC Davis is also a member of the Big Sky Conference for football and a member of the Big West Conference in its other sports.

Notes from the Northern Colorado Game:

• SUU equalled the team's best start during its NCAA Division I era at 4-1, matching the mark the team got out to under Coach C. Ray Gregory in 1997 when SUU competed as an independent. SUU has started off 5-1 just twice since moving to 4-year status in 1963, in 1986, the team’s first season in the Division II Western Football Conference, and in 1978 when the team competed at the NAIA level in the Rocky Mountain Conference; both of those teams were coached by Jack Bishop.

• SUU held UNC to four rushing yards, the fewest ever by a Division I opponent (the previous low was 10 by Idaho State in 2000 ... The four rushing yards by the Bears were the sixth fewest allowed overall by the Thunderbirds since 1963.

• The Thunderbirds had four sacks, equalling their 2013 total going into the game, and a season-high nine tackles for loss against the Bears. Robert Torgerson, Andrew Eide and James Cowser each had a solo sack while Zak Browning and Toi Taufa combined on the other. Torgerson finished with a career-best 2.5 TFLs while Eide had two. Matt Holley and Chad Hanson each had a TFL as well.

• Quarterback Aaron Cantu posted career-highs with 28 completions in 38 attempts for 269 yards; he also threw a pair of TD passes.

• Linebacker Zak Browning tallied a game-high 13 tackles including four solo stops and a half sack.

• Tyree Mills, who was playing in his first game this season, had two interceptions, tying the SUU single-game record (held by many); it was the first time an individual T-Bird had picked off two passes in a game since Nick DiPadova did it in 2003 at St. Mary's

• Colton Cook set the SUU career field goals record with a season-long 48-yarder for the Thunderbirds’ first points at UNC. His second field goal, a 36-yarder, extended the SUU career record to 40. Cook was a perfect 3-for-3 on PATs and 2-for-2 on field goals in the win.

• SUU lost its first fumble of the season when Raysean Martin was stripped of the ball midway through the second quarter and Cantu was intercepted after a tipped ball but the T-Birds still came out on top of the turnover battle as they got Mills’ two interceptions and also recovered a fumble.

SUU In The FCS National Ranks: 

SUU has seven players ranked among the FCS top-50 in 12 statistical categories, while the team figures among the top-30 programs in 17 categories.

Defense: DE James Cowser ranks eighth in tackles per loss with 1.9 per game, while LB Matt Holley ranks 23rd in TFLs with 1.5 per game. Holley also ranks 49th in fumbles recovered with 0.4 per game while Tommy Collet Jr.’s average of 0.4 interceptions per game is just outside the top-50 at 57th.

Offense: On the offensive side of the ball QB Aaron Cantu ranks among the top-50 in five categories, including sixth in completion percentage at .707. Cantu is also 39th in passing touchdowns with seven, 40th in completions per game with 18.8, 44th in passing efficiency with a rating of 135.5 and 50th in total passing yards with 870. RB Raysean Martin ranks 23rd with five rushing touchdowns and TE Anthony Norris ranks 39th with three receiving TDs. WR Fatu Moala is also just outside the top-50 in receptions per game, in 51st, with 5.2.

Special Teams: Kicker Colton Cook is 13th in field goals with 1.4 per game and 26th in field goal percentage at .875 while punter Brock Miller ranks 19th in the nation with a 43.1 yards per punt average.

Team: In the team categories, SUU is tied for first in fourth down conversion percentage (100 percent), is fourth in time of possession (34:40), fifth in completion percentage (.704), sixth in fumbles lost (one) and eighth in fumbles recovered (six) and red zone offense (95 percent conversion rate). The Thunderbirds are 10th in rushing defense (98 ypg), 11th in both net punting (39.75 ypp) and red zone defense (.647 conversion rate), are 12th in turnovers gained (12) and are 15th in turnover margin (plus-1.2). SUU is also 20th in fewest penalties per game (5.0), 23rd in passes intercepted (six), 26th in both third down defense (32.8 percent) and fewest penalty yards per game (43.4), is 38th in total defense (337.6 ypg) and 29th in turnovers lost (six).

T-Birds Receiving Votes In Polls: Southern Utah was listed among the others receiving votes in the Sports Network’s top-25 poll this week but inexplicably did not receive any votes in the coaches poll despite winning last week and receiving votes each week this season until now. SUU received 180 points in the Sports Network poll this week, which works out to 29th place.

GPI Ranks T-Birds 15th: College Sports Network’s Gridiron Power Index has Southern Utah ranked 15th heading into this weekend’s game. The Thunderbirds take a power rating of 17.71 into the weekend to sit just behind Northern Arizona at 16.71. Eastern Washington is the top-ranked team in the Big Sky, in seventh at 10.71 and two-time defending national champion North Dakota State is atop the list with a rating of 1.0.

ROOT Sports Players of the Week:

Colton Cook was named this week’s ROOT Sports Big Sky Conference co-Player of the Week for special teams. Cook was perfect in helping lift the Thunderbirds to a 27-21 win at Northern Colorado on Saturday. He was 3-for-3 on extra point attempts, 2-for-2 on field goal attempts and all of his kickoffs went for touchbacks. Cook’s season-long 48-yard field goal gave the Thunderbirds a 3-0 lead and set the SUU career field goals record at 39. His 36-yard field goal in the fourth quarter gave the T-Birds a 27-14 advantage and extended the career record.

College Football Performance Awards: 

Colton Cook earned his second National Placekicker of the Week award from the CFPA following his performance at Northern Colorado. His accomplishments are listed in the ROOT Sports Players of the Week section. Tyree Mills also earned honorable mention honors for his performance at UNC where he intercepted a pair of passes and tallied three tackles.

Records Watch: 

• Senior PK Colton Cook’s 38-yard game-winning field goal against Sacramento State put him into a tie atop SUU’s career-field goals list with Herkey Marxen at, appropriately, 38, and he nailed two more at Northern Colorado, a season-long 48-yarder and one from 36 yards out, to give him sole possession of the record then push it to 40. His nine points against the Bears give him 190 career points, which is eighth on the SUU list  (nine behind seventh place Kelvin Minefee, 1988-89) and his two extra points at UNC give Cook 69 and move him past Joe Wells’ 68 (1978-80) and into fourth place on SUU’s career PATs list.

• Senior WR Fatu Moala moved into fifth place on a pair of career lists at Northern Colorado. With seven receptions for 120 yards at UNC he has 117 career catches for 1,483 yards. Last week he moved past former teammate Jared Ursua (2008-11) on the receptions list; next up on the list is A.J. Smith who had 143 receptions in 2003 and ‘04. On the receiving yards list he moved past Tex Anthony (1,383 yards, 1969-71) and Jerry Spackman (1,388 yards, 1966-67). Moala is also knocking on the door of another list as he needs just two touchdowns to move into a tie for ninth in SUU’s career receiving TDs list (he is currently 11th with nine).

• Senior punter Brock Miller’s seven punts for 294 yards at Sac State dropped his career average from 42.79 yards to 42.74 yards per kick but it is still the highest career average in SUU history. Trevor Ward, who last played in 2009, is second at 42.3 ypp.

Scouting the Aggies: 

UC Davis said goodbye to long-time Coach Bob Biggs following last season and the Aggies are in their first year under Coach Ron Gould. This won’t be the first time Gould has coached against SUU, however, as he was on the opposite sideline once last season when he was associate head coach and run game coordinator on the California Golden Bears staff.

The Aggies, whose roster is made up of 99 players from the state of California and one from Oregon, have averaged 12.8 points and 304.2 yards of total offense so far this season while giving up 24.2 points and 387.8 yards of offense.

UC Davis has been fairly balanced on offense, running the ball 179 times for an average of 133.6 yards per game and completing 80-of-145 passes for 170.6 yards per outing. Aggie opponents have averaged 213.4 rushing and 174.4 passing yards per game.

Two quarterbacks, Jimmy Laughrea and Randy Wright, have started for the Aggies this season. Wright started the opener at South Dakota but didn’t finish the game and Laughrea has started every subsequent contest after finishing at USD. Wright has come off the bench in the last three after missing the Nevada game and he completed 14-of-22 passes for 201 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the win last week over Idaho State.

On the season Laughrea has completed 59-of-109 passes for 592 yards and a touchdown with four interceptions while Wright has completed 21-of-36 passes for 261 yards and two scores with no interceptions.

The Aggies’ top receivers have been WRs Tom Hemmingsen and Cory Galindo. Hemmingsen has 25 receptions for 277 yards and two TDs while Galindo has 15 receptions for 113 yards. The Aggies have spread the ball around, however, as 14 players have at least one reception.

Running back Gabe Manzanares has carried the bulk of the load when it comes to rushing the football. Manzanares has carried 80 times for 371 yards and three touchdowns in two starts, while Tavior Mowry has carried 38 times for 130 yards with two starts as well.

Defensively, safeties Aaryn Jones and Charles Boyett and end Nick King have led the Aggies. Jones has a team-high 34 tackles while King has 32 and Boyett has notched 31 stops. Jones has two and Boyett has a third of the team’s four interceptions, while King leads the team with four sacks and is an Aggie co-leader with 4.5 tackles for loss. Jones has also broken up a team-high four passes and Boyett has two PBUs.