News, Sports

Thunderbirds Upset No. 18/21 Northern Iowa In Home Opener

SUU Athletic Strategic Communications

The Thunderbird football team opened their home season with a bang on Saturday evening, as they upset the No. 18/21 Panthers of Northern Iowa 24-21 with a game winning field goal in the final minutes of play.

The Thunderbirds played in front of 8,841 on Saturday evening.

Only one score was put on the board in the first quarter, as SUU’s James Felila broke into the end zone from one yard out to put the Thunderbirds up 7-0.

Not even 30 seconds into the second half the Thunderbirds scored again, when Patrick Tyler found Bryan Beckon from 33-yards out to put the Thunderbirds up 14-0.

The Panthers would cut into the Thunderbird lead before the first half was up, as Seth Thomas returned an interception for a touchdown with 6:52 left in the first 30 minutes.

The Panthers put up a field goal with 7:43 to play in the third quarter, but the Thunderbirds responded with Felila’s second touchdown of the night to stay on top 21-10.

The fourth quarter stayed tight all the way until the final seconds. The Panthers scored a touchdown with 8:08 to play, as Eli Dunne found his target from 21-yards away. UNI elected to go for two and converted, making the score 21-18. On their next drive Northern Iowa hit a field goal to tie the game up at 21-21.

After a blocked field goal attempt by the Thunderbirds, Southern Utah drove the field and freshman kicker Manny Berz knocked home the game winning field goal.

“I was just excited to be out there and get a chance to contribute to the team,” Berz said. “I had all my trust in my long snapper Chandler Dowell and my holder Judd Cockett, and they did their job and I did mine.”

Jalen Russell intercepted Dunne as Northern Iowa heaved the ball for one last try, which sealed the game and gave SUU a 24-21 victory.

Tyler threw for 200 yards and one touchdown for the Thunderbirds. Felila carried the ball for 92 yards and two touchdowns.

The Thunderbirds had 397 yards of total offense.

Chinedu Ahanonu had 12 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble for the Thunderbirds. Taylor Nelson had 11 tackles for SUU.

“I’m really proud of the guys, we’ve talked about way bigger goals than this,” SUU head coach Demario Warren said. “We’re 0-0 in the Big Sky and we were picked seventh, so we’ve got a lot to prove next week and we don’t win the Big Sky without that game.”

The Thunderbirds will continue their season next weekend, when they will head to Sacramento to face off against the Hornets of Sacramento State.

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