Thunderbirds Travel To Meet Grizzlies

October 09, 2012
By SUU Strategic Communication

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Mike Needham (44) led the Thunderbirds with a career-high 11 tackles vs. Sacramento State
Mike Needham (44) led the Thunderbirds with a career-high 11 tackles vs. Sacramento State
Courtesy: Deb Hill
Quickly: Southern Utah University gets back on the road this weekend to take on Montana Saturday in the Thunderbirds' fourth Big Sky contest.

Southern Utah (2-4/1-2 Big Sky) will be looking to snap a two-game skid. The Thunderbirds lost a 24-17 home decision to No. 2 Montana State two weeks ago, then fell at home again last weekend, a 27-22 loss to Sacramento State. Going into the MSU game the Thunderbirds had won two straight, including a 49-42 win in their conference opener at Portland State.

Montana (3-3/1-2 Big Sky) stopped a two-game losing streak of its own last Saturday when the Grizzlies traveled to Northern Colorado and came away with a 40-17 win. Prior to that victory UM had lost at home to Northern Arizona (41-31) and at Eastern Washington (32-26).

The Game: Southern Utah (2-4/1-2) at Montana (3-3/1-2), Saturday at 1:35 p.m. (MDT), Washington-Grizzly Stadium, Missoula, Mont.

The Series:Montana holds a 4-1 lead in the series, and all five previous meetings have taken place in Missoula. The last time the teams met,  in 2008, SUU Coach Ed Lamb's first season, the Grizzlies' Mark Mariani caught four touchdown passes in propelling UM to a 46-10 win. SUU's lone win in the series came in 1998 when Brook Madsen suffered a season-ending broken arm as he dove for the end zone and what proved to be the winning score in a season-opening 45-35 Thunderbird win.

Video Highlights:Video highlights 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.

Radio: All of Southern Utah's 2012 football games are 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 Art Challis is entering his 38th season as the Thunderbirds' football voice. Matt Roan, a former all-conference center for the Thunderbirds, will provide color commentary.

On The Internet:Video web-streaming coverage of all of Southern Utah's remaining games, both home and away, will be available on Big Sky TV, at Audio of SUU games is available at the Thunderbirds' website at or at

Live Stats:Live stats of SUU's home games may be found on the Thunderbird website at Real-time live stats of SUU's home games are also available to working media, contact the athletic media relations office for access.

Thunderbird Practice Schedule:The players are off on Mondays. Daily practices Tuesday through Thursday are scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. and end between 5:30 and 6:00 p.m.

Media Availability:Players and coaches are available for interviews on Tuesdays following practice, at approximately 6:00 p.m. SUU Head Coach Ed Lamb participates in the Big Sky teleconference each Wednesday and media representatives are encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity. His regularly scheduled time is 10:16 a.m. (Mountain). To contact a player or coach on another day or time, or to arrange telephone interviews, contact Neil Gardner at or 435-586-7753.

Next Up/Remaining Schedule: The Thunderbirds host their final two home games of the season over the next two weeks. SUU hosts Weber State on Oct. 20, then Eastern Washington visits Cedar City on Oct. 27. The season wraps up with road games at North Dakota (Nov. 3) and Northern Arizona (Nov. 10).

The Coaches

A 2010 Eddie Robinson Award nominee, SUU's Ed Lamb (BYU, 1996) has a record of 23-27 in his fifth season as the Thunderbird head coach and his fifth season as a head coach overall. Last year Lamb guided the Thunderbirds 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. Prior to his time at USD Lamb spent two seasons as defensive coordinator at Idaho. He also served 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 0-1 vs. Montana.

Mick Delaney (Western Montana, 1964) takes a record of 3-3 as head coach of the Griz and an overall record of 10-12-1 into Saturday's game. Coach Delaney, who was the Grizzlies' associated head coach the past four seasons and spent two seasons as head coach at Western Montana, is 0-0 vs. the Thunderbirds.

In the Record Books:Brad Sorensen moved atop the SUU career-passing list with his 327-yard game against Sacramento State. He has thrown for 7,639 yards in his three seasons at SUU to pass Rick Robins, who threw for 7,441 yards from 1992-96. Sorensen also passed Robins to move into second place on the total yards list last Saturday. Sorensen now has 7,625 total yards to Robins' 7,468. Matt Cannon, who ran for a good portion of his yards, is atop the list with 8,930 yards, from 1997 to 2000. Earlier this season Sorensen set the record for career touchdown passes and completed passes. He currently has 52 TD tosses and has completed 639 passes.

Quiet Excellence:Cody Larsen is quietly having a very strong year. The senior defensive tackle ranks among the nation's leaders in both sacks and tackles for loss despite playing in the middle of the line. He leads the team in tackles for loss with nine and in sacks with four, and he has a team-high four quarterback hurries as well. He has also forced three fumbles and recovered two more. During his career Larsen has notched 16 sacks, which ranks sixth on the all-time SUU list.

Good Vibrations:Senior tailback Brian Wilson has been the Thunderbirds' leading rusher all season but he didn't notch a rushing touchdown until last week, when he finally got into the end zone against Sacramento State on a one-yard run midway through the third quarter to cap a 10-play, 83-yard drive. It was his fourth TD of the season but the others came on receptions.

Record Book Performances At PSU:Southern Utah had a handful of performances worthy of the SUU record books at Portland State. Josh Smith's 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown is tied as the sixth-longest in the school's history, while his 173 KO return yards in the game rank fifth. Brad Sorensen's four-touchdown, 311-yard day also changed the books. Sorensen became just the second Thunderbird to pass for over 7,000 yards in a career (along with Rick Robins) agains the Vikings and he tied the second-highest total for TD passes in a game with four, one shy of his own SUU record.

Kick Start:Colton Cook's three made field goals against Sacramento State tied the total for second-most field goals in a game at SUU. The record for field goals in a game at Southern Utah is five (by Ryan Griffith vs. Dixie State in 2009), but kickers have booted three in a game six times for the T-Birds.

Grizzly Notes:

Montana will be looking to put together back-to-back wins for the first time in 2012. The Grizzlies opened the season with a 35-24 home win over South Dakota, then traveled to Boone, N.C., where they lost a 35027 decision to perennial power Appalachian State. The followed with a 34-14 home win over Liberty before losing their Big Sky opener to Northern Arizona, 41-31, at home. The next week the Griz traveled to Eastern Washington where they lost a hear-breaker to the #7 Eagles, 32-26, but last week they bounced back with the convincing 40-17 win at Northern Colorado.

For the third straight week the Thunderbirds will be facing a quarterback who is as dangerous with his feet as with his arm. Montana QB Trent McKinney (6-0, 198, Fr) has passed for 1,083 yards and seven touchdowns, but he has also rushed for 350 yards and six TDs. He has completed 108-of-163 passes with seven interceptions and averages 180.5 yards per game.

McKinney's favorite targets have been WR Sam Gratton (6-1, 198, Sr) and TE Greg Hardy (6-5, 245, Sr). Gratton has 17 receptions for 260 yards and two TDs while Hardy has caught 15 passes for 95 yards and a score.

Peter Nguyen (5-8, 182, Sr) is the team's leading rusher, its third-leading receiver and one of the top all-purpose runners in school history. Nguyen has 87 carries for 440 yards and three touchdowns and he has also returned 12 punts an average of 12.7 yards, with another score. Nguyen is not the only threat, however, as Dan Moore (5-11, 235, Sr), McKinney and Jordan Canada (5-9, 172, So) all have over 200 rushing yards. Moore has carried 74 times for 406 yards and four TDs but he did not play at UNC and saw limited action at Eastern Washington. Canada had a huge day at EWU, carrying 19 times for 167 yards before seeing a more limited role last week.

Montana's defense, like Southern Utah's, has been very good at forcing turnovers this year, as the Grizzlies have picked off seven passes and recovered 10 fumbles. Linebacker Jordan Tripp (6-4, 244, Jr) leads the team with 57 tackles while MLB Brock Coyle (6-2, 240, Jr) has 56. Tripp is one of seven Montana defenders with an interception, leads the team with two fumbles forced and he is also second on the team in tackles for loss with 5.5. DE Zack Wagenmann (6-4, 240, So) leads the team with 8.0 TFLs and 6.5 sacks and co-leads, along with Coyle, the team in pass deflections with three.