The Thunderbirds opened Big Sky Conference play on Saturday night against the Sacramento State, falling to the Hornets 54-27.
This moves the Thunderbirds to 2-2 on the season and 0-1 in the Big Sky Conference.
The Hornets struck first with just over three minutes off the clock, as Andre Lindsey scored from six yards out on a pass from Kevin Thomson to go up 7-0.
SUU’s first score came off a Jarmaine Doubs Jr. interception that was marked out at the one-yard line, where Janeiro Green Jr. broke into the end zone to tie the contest up at 7-7.
After that, the Hornets put three unanswered touchdowns on the board, resulting in a 27-7 advantage with just over four minutes to play.
Thunderbird quarterback Aaron Zwahlen threw his first career touchdown as a Thunderbird with 2:41 to play in the first half, when he hit Isaiah Diego-Williams from 25 yards away to pull SUU within 27-14.
The Hornets added a field goal before the end of the half to take a 30-14 advantage into the halftime break.
Sacramento State kept their offensive momentum going in the third quarter, as they kicked a field goal and scored on a 59-yard run to increase their lead to 40-14.
The Thunderbirds found some momentum to start the fourth quarter, as James Felila rushed for two touchdowns on back-to-back Thunderbird drives to bring them within 40-27.
Unfortunately for SUU, the Hornets scored two more times before the clock ran dry, with the contest ending at 54-27.
“They’re a good football team, they beat us pretty good tonight and hopefully we learned a lot of lessons from losing this game tonight,” SUU head coach Demario Warren said.
In his first start for the Thunderbirds, Aaron Zwahlen threw for 188 yards and one touchdown. He hit Bryan Beckon six times for 44 yards.
This was Zwahlen’s first start at quarterback since high school.
“Five years is a long time, it’s half a decade, so I came out and I didn’t play as I hoped I would,” he said.
Felila had 17 carries for 86 yards and two touchdowns.
“He runs hard every play, every game,” Warren said. “It’s always nice to see those backs get rewarded with some long runs.”
Alex Sims led the team in tackles with 11. Chinedu Ahanonu had 2.5 tackles for loss for 11 yards.
For the Hornets, Kevin Thomson had 253 yards through the air and 149 on the ground. The Hornet QB was directly responsible for seven touchdowns on the evening.
“He’s a great player,” SUU’s Mike Needham said about Thompson. “When you play quarterbacks that can get out of the pocket quick there’s a certain game plan that we have to play, and I think we had the right game plan we just didn’t execute at the right times.”
The Thunderbirds are heading into their bye week, and will return to the field on October 7 when they will host Cal Poly for their annual Homecoming Game.
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SUU Athletic Strategic Communications