Quickly: Southern Utah will be facing one of the most high-powered offenses in the nation for the second straight week this Saturday when the Thunderbirds travel to Cheney, Wash. to take on Big Sky co-leader Eastern Washington, which is ranked fourth in the Sports Network poll and sixth by the coaches this week.
After facing off against Portland State – which was averaging 38 points and 575 yards of offense last week – the Thunderbirds face a team in the Eagles which averages 37 points and 499 yards per game this week.
Southern Utah (5-2/2-1 Big Sky) was able to contain Portland State and get back on track with a 17-7 home win after seeing a modest two-game win streak come to an end against UC Davis the previous week. The win over Portland State moved the Thunderbirds to 5-2 overall and 2-1 in the Big Sky, giving the team its best start in conference play since joining the BSC last year and extending the best start in the Ed Lamb era.
SUU was 1-2 after three Big Sky games last season and the team has been 3-4 after seven games every year since Coach Lamb took the program’s reins in 2008. SUU, which opened the season playing four of its first games on the road, is 3-1 on the road and 2-1 at home so far in 2013.
Eastern Washington (4-2/2-0 Big Sky) is another team that is no stranger to the road this season. The Eagles have also played four games away from home in 2013. EWU is 2-2 away from Roos Field, including one of the signature wins in the NCAA Division I Football Subdivision, a 49-46 shootout win at Oregon State in the opener. EWU is perfect at home this season after posting a non-conference win over Western Oregon (43-14) and a 41-19 victory over Weber State in its only BSC home game so far.
EWU is coming off a 35-14 win at North Dakota. The Eagles broke open a close game with an interception return for a touchdown late in the third quarter for a 28-14 lead, then added a touchdown midway through the fourth period to help cement the win.
The Game: Southern Utah (5-2/2-1) at Eastern Washington (4-2/2-0), Saturday at 5:05 p.m. (PDT) at Roos Field (8,600/Sprinturf).
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 while former SUU standout Jared Ursua will provide analysis.
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 be televised by SWX Digital in Eastern Washington’s regional market.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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: Eastern Washington holds a 4-2 lead in the series which has seen four games played in Cedar City and just two in Cheney, Wash. The series began with a 43-21 SUU home win in 1998 but that was the last SUU win in the series until last season when the Thunderbirds broke a four-game skid against the Eagles with another win at Eccles Coliseum. Last year SUU outscored then top-ranked EWU 10-0 in the final eight minutes to claim a 30-27 home win. In the two games played in Cheney the Eagles rolled to a 49-21 win in 2003 before holding off the Thunderbirds 31-24 in 2010.
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:
10:00 a.m. MTN (9:00 PCT) – Rob Ash, Montana State
10:08 a.m. MTN (9:08 PCT) – Chris Mussman, North Dakota
10:16 a.m. MTN (9:16 PCT) – Ed Lamb, Southern Utah
10:24 a.m. MTN (9:24 PCT) – Jody Sears, Weber State
10:32 a.m. MTN (9:32 PCT) – Mike Kramer, Idaho State
10:40 a.m. MTN (9:40 PCT) – Mick Delaney, Montana
10:48 a.m. MTN (9:48 PCT) – Earnest Collins Jr., No. Colorado
10:56 a.m. MTN (9:56 PCT) – Jerome Souers, No. Arizona
11:04 a.m. MTN (10:04 PCT) – Nigel Burton, Portland State
11:12 a.m. MTN (10:12 PCT) – Marshall Sperbeck, Sacramento State
11:20 a.m. MTN (10:20 PCT) – Beau Baldwin, E. Washington
11:28 a.m. MTN (10:28 PCT) – Tim Walsh, Cal Poly
11:36 a.m. MTN (10:36 PCT) – Ron Gould, UC Davis
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 return home to host Idaho State next week then have a bye before heading out for the final two road games of the season, at Weber State (Nov. 9) and Montana State (Nov. 16). The T-Birds then wrap up the regular-season on Nov. 23 when they host Northern Arizona.
A 2010 Eddie Robinson Award nominee, SUU's Ed Lamb (BYU, 1996) has a record of 31-31 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 1-1 vs. the Eagles.
Eastern Washington’s Beau Baldwin (Central Washington, 1996) is in his seventh season as a head coach, including six at the helm of the Eagle program. Baldwin takes an overall record of 58-24, including a 48-21 mark at EWU, into the game. Prior to taking over the Eagle program Baldwin spent one season at head coach at his alma mater, Central Washington. Coach Baldwin is 2-1 vs. the Thunderbirds.
Affiliations: Southern Utah is a member of the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision’s Big Sky Conference in the majority of its sports, including football (gymnastics is an NCAA Division I independent while men’s golf will compete in the American Sky Conference this season). Eastern Washington is also a member of the Big Sky Conference.
Notes from the Portland State Game:
• SUU had a season-low 183 total yards but also held PSU to season lows in yards (313) and points (seven). The Vikings were averaging 38 points and 574 yards per game heading into the weekend.
• CB Tyree Mills and P Brock Miller earned ROOT Sports Big Sky Player of the Week honors for their efforts.
• Mills led the defensive charge with two interceptions, three passes broken up and nine tackles, including eight solo stops. He returned his second interception 41 yards, almost to the goal line, setting up SUU's final touchdown of the day to clinch the win. Mills has four interceptions in the last three contests after sitting out the first four games of the season.
• Miller averaged 48.6 yards on seven punts, pinning the Vikings inside the 20 yard line three times with two touchbacks; the Vikings also blocked two punts, one of which still rolled 44 yards before stopping at the five yard line.
• Matt Holley led the team with a career-best 14 tackles, including seven solo stops and two tackles for loss.
• Sophomore defensive end James Cowser had a nice line as well with six solo tackles (seven total), a sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and two quarterback hurries.
• Freshman LB Chinedu Ahanonu had nine tackles (eight solo with one TFL) in his first game as a Thunderbird. The coaches planned to redshirt him but injuries at the LB position forced a change in plans.
• Senior free safety Tommy Collet Jr. picked off his third pass of the season, his fourth in the last eight games and the sixth of his career. He also recovered a fumble and was in on five tackles.
• WR Fatu Moala caught his first touchdown pass of the season and 10th in the past two seasons to move him into 11th-place on SUU's career receiving TDs list. Moala had four receptions on the day, no other player had more than two and six players had one catch.
• Griff McNabb had two of his three longest punt returns of the season, including a season-long 22-yard effort as well as a 17-yarder.
• Freshman RB Levi Te'o carried 22 times for 62 yards, both career highs.
• Colton Cook extended his own SUU record with his 42nd career field goal, a season-long-tying 48-yarder. The goal was Cook’s ninth in 2013, tying him with Matt Rhea (1997) and Herkey Marxen (1987) for ninth place on the single-season list. Cook set the SUU single-season field goals mark with 19 last year.
SUU In The FCS/BSC National Ranks:
SUU has eight players ranked among the FCS top-50 in 11 statistical categories and the team figures among the top-30 programs in 15 categories.
Defense: DE James Cowser ranks 12th in the FCS and fourth in the Big Sky in tackles for loss with 1.7 per game and he is 39th in the FCS and third in the BSC in sacks with 0.7 per game while LB Matt Holley is 26th in the nation and fifth in the Sky in TFL with 1.4 per outing. Tommy Collet Jr. is 28th in the nation and second in the BSC in interceptions with 0.4 per game. Tyree Mills. 1.3 IPG would lead the nation but he has played in just three games and players must appear in 75 percent of their team’s contests to be eligible.
Offense: On the offensive side of the ball QB Aaron Cantu ranks among the nation’s top-50 in three categories: 16th in completion percentage at .659, 35th in completions per game with 19.6 and 46th in total passing yards with 1,270; those numbers rank second, fifth and seventh in the BSC. RB Raysean Martin ranks 49th in the FCS (and fifth in the BSC) with five rushing touchdowns while WR Fatu Moala is 42nd in the nation and 10th in the Sky in receptions per game with 5.4.
Special Teams: Punter Brock Miller is the highest-ranked Thunderbird this week as his 44.2 yards per punt average puts him fifth in the nation and third in the conference. Kicker Colton Cook is 13th in the nation with 1.3 field goals per game and 34th in field goal percentage (0.750) and second in the BSC in both categories.
Team: In the team categories, SUU leads the Big Sky and is third in the nation with just one fumble lost and is fourth in the FCS and leads the BSC in fumbles recovered with nine. SUU is fifth in the nation (third in the BSC) in net punting at 40 ypp, sixth in the nation (BSC first) in turnovers gained (18) and eighth in the FCS and (BSC second) in both turnover margin (plus-1.3) and time of possession (33.01).
SUU ranks 11th in the nation in fewest penalties per game (4.57), is 12th in red zone defense (.682), 13th in fewest penalty yards per game (38.9), 14th in passes intercepted (nine) and 4th down conversion percentage (.714), 16th in completion percentage (.657), and 17th in scoring defense (19.9 ppg) and ranks second in the Big Sky in all of those categories.
The Thunderbirds are also 22nd/2nd in rushing defense (115.1 ypg) and 29th/4th in 3rd down conversion defense (33 percent).
T-Birds Receiving Votes In Polls: Southern Utah was listed among the others receiving votes in the FCS Coaches and Sports Network’s top-25 polls this week. SUU received 10 points to rank 29th in the coaches poll and 48 points to rank 35th in the Sports Network poll this week.
ROOT Sports Players of the Week:
Tyree Mills and Brock Miller were named ROOT Sports Big Sky Conference Players of the week for their performances in the Thunderbirds’ 17-7 win over Portland State last Saturday, the conference has announced. Mills earned Defensive Player of the Week honors while Miller was named Special Teams Player of the week.
Mills had two of the biggest plays of the day, a pair of interceptions, one of which he returned 41 yards to the Viking one-yard line to set up a touchdown. He also broke up three more passes and tallied nine tackles, eight of which were solo stops. In just three games this season Mills has intercepted four passes.
Miller punted seven times for 340 yards, an average of 48.6 yards per kick, and pinned the Vikings inside their 20 yard line three times, including twice inside the 10-yard line. In addition to the other seven he had one partially-blocked punt which still managed to travel 44 yards before being downed at the Viking six. Miller is the school’s career punt average leader, at 43.2 yards per punt.
• Senior PK Colton Cook sets SUU’s career record every time he hits a field goal. His 38-yard game-winner at Sacramento State put him into a tie atop SUU’s career-field goals list with Herkey Marxen at, appropriately, 38. He has subsequently succeeded on four more tries to put the record at 42. His five points against PSU gave him 198 for his career and into a tie for seventh place with Kelvin Minefee (1988-89) and seven behind Dave Pretzer’s 205 from 1999 to 2002. He also has 72 PAT which puts him in fourth place on SUU’s career list, 34 behind Steve Pulver (2003-07).
• Senior WR Fatu Moala moved into fifth place on a pair of career lists at Northern Colorado and after the two subsequent games he has 129 receptions for 1,607 yards. He is 469 yards behind Bob Stookey (1988-91) and 14 receptions behind A.J. Smith (2003-04) for fourth place on those respective lists. Moala is also knocking on the door of another list as he needs just one touchdowns to move into a tie for ninth in SUU’s career receiving TDs list (he is currently 11th with 10).
• Senior punter Brock Miller’s seven punts for 340 yards pushed his SUU career-high average from 42.9 yards per kick to 43.2. Trevor Ward, who last played in 2009, is second at 42.3 ypp.
Thunderbird Quick Hits:
• SUU is 4-1 in overtime games. Since losing a 42-34 decision at Hampton in 2000 in their first OT game the Thunderbirds have won their last four extra session games: a 23-17 double-overtime win at home over South Dakota State in 2004, a 20-17 home win over Northern Colorado in 2005, a 35-29 triple-OT win at Northern Arizona last season and the 24-21 win at Sacramento State on Sept. 21.
• SUU is in its 51st season as a four-year football-playing institution and its 28th as a member of the NCAA. The 2012 season also marks the Thunderbirds’ 21st as a member of the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision and is the school’s second in the Big Sky Conference. SUU competed in the Great West Conference prior to moving to the BSC.
• The Thunderbirds are playing a 12-game schedule for the first time in school history. With the exception of one year, SUU has played an 11-game season every year since 1985. The lone exception came in 2005 when the Thunderbirds’ game at McNeese State was cancelled because of damage caused by Hurricane Rita.
• The opener at South Alabama marked the eighth time in the last 10 seasons the Thunderbirds have played their first game of the season on the road, including the last four in a row. Last year SUU opened at Utah State, in 2011 the T-Birds opened at South Dakota State and in 2010 they began the season at Wyoming. The other openers at the road during the past 10 years came at Air Force (2008), at Montana (2007), at Idaho State (2005) and at Weber State (2004). The two openers at home were in 2009 against Dixie State and in 2006 when the ‘Birds kicked off the season against Montana Tech at Eccles Coliseum.
Scouting the Eagles:
Eastern Washington brings another stiff challenge for the Thunderbird defense as the Eagles enter the game with the fifth-most potent offense in the country in terms of total yards and the 17th in terms of points. EWU averages 37.2 points and 499.3 yards per game – including 171 yards on the ground and 328.3 through the air – and the Eagles are the top-ranked team in the nation in terms of passing efficiency with a rating of 184.50.
Sophomore quarterback Vernon Adams has completed 119-of-179 passes for 1,891 yards and 21 touchdowns while throwing just five interceptions in directing the Eagle offense. WR Ashton Clark has been his favorite receiver, with 33 receptions for 562 yards and four TDs, while WR Cooper Kupp has caught 22 passes for 427 yards and eight scores. Two more Eagles, WRs Shaquille Hill and Cory Mitchell, have double-figure receptions totals, with 20 catches for 258 yards and three TDs and 17 receptions for 269 yards and a score, respectively. All four of those receivers has at least one play this season of 50 yards or longer.
When it comes to running the ball the Eagles have turned primarily to RB Quincy Forte, who averages 5.4 yards per carry and 56 yards per game, but Adams is also a threat as he is the team’s second-leading rusher with 260 yards and three TDs on the ground. Mario Brown led the team in rushing with 11 carries for 49 yards at North Dakota last week.
The Eagle defense has allowed opponents averages of 29.2 points and 414.2 yards per game, including 236.2 passing and 178 rushing yards per game.
OLB Ronnie Hamlin leads the team with 43 total tackles but six Eagles have over 30 tackles, including CB T.J. Lee III who has a team-best 31 solo stops among his 37 total. MLB Cody McCarthy, who has 33 total tackles, leads the team in tackles for loss with 2.5 while DE Samson Ebukam has a team-best 2.0 sacks. CB Allen Brown, who also has 33 stops, leads the team with two interceptions. Lee leads the team in passes broken up with four.