SUU to Host North Alabama in 2018 Season Opener
The Thunderbirds will kick off the season this Saturday at Eccles Coliseum against North Alabama. It will be North Alabama’s FCS debut after playing in the Gulf South Conference of NCAA Division II.
SUU brings back 14 starters from a team that went 9-3, won their second Big Sky Conference title in the last three seasons and hosted their first FCS Playoff game in 2017.
Juniors Chris Helbig and Aaron Zwahlen are competing to replace Patrick Tyler as the starting quarterback. Junior running back James Felila returns after rushing for 699 yards and eight TD last year. Sophomore Landen Measom returns after leading SUU with 608 receiving yards and four TD in 2017. Senior tight end Logan Parker returns after catching 43 passes for 560 yards and 5 TD last year. Senior Marquez Tucker and junior Zach Larsen lead a strong offensive line as preseason All-Americans.
Although the Thunderbirds lost a lot of defenders from last season, they return key pieces. Senior linebacker Taylor Nelson returns after racking up 83 tackles last season. Senior linebacker Chinedu Ahanonu returns after earning 70 tackles in seven games played last year. Sophomore cornerback Jalen Russell returns after tallying three interceptions a year ago. Senior safety Kyle Hanneman comes back after being sidelined due to injury last season.
North Alabama finished sixth in Gulf South with a 5-5 overall record in 2017. They return 13 starters this season.
Senior quarterback Matt Markham should lead the North Alabama offense after throwing for 320 yards, three TD and two interceptions in seven games last season. Senior running back Damon Cox returns after rushing for 247 yards in 2017. Senior wide receiver Alex Norwood should be targeted often after catching 19 balls for 229 years last season.
North Alabama’s defense allowed only 17.5 points per game last season and they return a lot of talent. Senior linebacker Joshua Amanfo returns as last year’s leading tackler with a total of 68. Sophomore linebacker Christon Taylor comes back after recording 67 tackles and three interceptions last year. Senior safety Chris Johnson could wreak havoc in the secondary after intercepting six passes last season.
The season-opener will be a whiteout, so don’t forget to sport your white T-Bird gear.
Kickoff is at 6 p.m. with a tailgate party at 4 p.m. in the main parking lot. If you can’t make it to the game, watch it live on Pluto TV channel 236 or listen on KSUB 590 AM or ESPN 97.7 FM.
Story by: Aaron Peterson
Photo courtesy of: SUU Athletics Strategic Communications