CEDAR CITY, Utah, Oct. 26 – Freshman Mike Sharp ran for 157 yards and a touchdown and completed 14-of-27 passes for 178 yards in his first start Saturday, leading Southern Utah to a 19-9 Big Sky Conference win over Idaho State.
With the win SUU improved to 6-3 overall and 3-2 in Big Sky play while ISU dipped to 3-5 and 1-4 in the conference.
SUU finished with 418 yards of offense, its highest total of the season, and held Idaho State to 254 yards, including a season-low 13 rushing yards. The Bengals finished with their second-lowest overall total of the season, behind their 164 yards at Washington as the Thunderbird defense sacked ISU quarterback Justin Arias three times and harried him all day.
“I was really pleased with the way the defense played,” SUU Coach Ed Lamb said after the game. “Idaho State’s really got a potent offense and to hold them to 250 total yards and almost zero yards rushing was a great job by the defensive guys.
“Offensively Mike Sharp did a really nice job of keeping possession of the football,” Lamb added. “He did it with his feet and he threw for 180 yards too so it was kind good dual threat for us today from the quarterback position. I thought we were just a couple of plays here and there from breaking the game open and that’s what we’ve got to do going forward is to find a way to get over the top a few times and turn some of those drives into touchdown drives. “
Sharp had big impact early as he carried nine times for 65 yards on the Thunderbirds’ first drive and had 94 rushing yards with 12:15 to play in the second quarter when he scored the first touchdown of the game.
After holding Idaho State to a three-and-out on its first possession the Thunderbirds took over on their own four yard line and drove inside the ISU 20 before settling for a 38-yard Colton Cook field goal. All of SUU’s yards came on the ground with Sharp’s 65 yards and a 17-yard Raysean Martin carry.
After another ISU punt the Thunderbirds put together a 50-yard drive that culminated in a one-yard Sharp run for a score. The Thunderbirds benefitted from the pass on the second drive, as, after a holding call set the Thunderbirds back to their own 44-yard line Easton Pedersen made a one-handed grab over the middle for a 31-yard gain, putting the ball on the ISU 25. Sharp carried four times to get the ball to the Bengal three with a first down and after Levi Te’o took it to the one Sharpe snuck it in for a 10-0 Thunderbird lead.
SUU’s defense stymied the Bengals again when Myles Carelock intercepted an Arias pass at the ISU 37 yard line on the ensuing possession and drove for a 30-yard Cook field goal and a 13-0 lead with 6:37 to play in the half.
Idaho State answered with its best drive of the first half, going 75 yards on 10 plays and getting into the end zone on a 4-yard pass from Arias to Cameron Richmond but the PAT hit the upright to leave the Bengals down 13-6 going into the half.
SUU got on the board again late in the third period with another field goal, this one coming after LeShaun Sims intercepted Arias in the SUU end zone. The teams wound up trading field goals to leave SUU with a16-9 lead but Cook put the game away with a 22-yarder for the 19-9 advantage with 27 seconds to play.