Wildcats Pull Away From Thunderbirds Late

TUCSON, Ariz. — In their final non-conference matchup of the 2018 season, the Thunderbird football team fell to the Arizona Wildcats 62-31 at Arizona Stadium on Saturday night. The first half was tightly contested between the two teams before the home team representing the Pac-12 Conference pulled away in the third quarter.

“The offense did a great job of controlling the football in the first half, I think we had their defense tired and worn out, but we couldn’t stop them tonight,” SUU head coach Demario Warren said. “Khalil Tate had a great game, and we made some mistakes we can’t have, and that’s on me as a defensive coach to make sure  that they’re more prepared. But we’ve got to move forward. The guys are always going to keep fighting, which I love about them, but I’ve got to do a better job as a head coach and defensive coordinator to be able to stop some teams that are doing what they need to do to win games.”

The Thunderbirds opened the game with a promising drive, which resulted in a missed 32-yard field goal attempt that give the Wildcats possession. The home team wasted no time getting going, putting seven points on the board on their opening drive.

On Arizona’s next offensive drive the T-Birds were able to force a turnover, as Jalen Russell caused a fumble and Taylor Nelson hopped on top of it. After an impressive drive by SUU Manny Berz connected on a 33-yard field goal attempt to make it 7-3 in favor of Arizona. However, on the ensuing kickoff the Wildcats returned the kick for a touchdown to take a 14-3 lead.

Southern Utah’s next drive was a 13-play, 75-yard one that resulted in their first touchdown of the night from Jay Green Jr. on the ground. The following drive by Arizona resulted in a field goal after a strong stand from the defense, giving them a 17-10 lead.

SUU’s next drive also resulted in seven, as they went 75 yards in 13 plays to tie the contest up at 17-17. Helbig scored for SUU from two yards out on the ground.

Right before the break the Wildcats added another touchdown as Khalil Tate found Sun Brown from 11 yards away to put the home team up 24-17 at half.

Unfortunately for the Thunderbirds, the third quarter was all Wildcats. Arizona outscored Southern Utah 24-0 in the third frame to take a 48-17 lead.

The Thunderbirds scored two more touchdowns in the final quarter of play. Helbig got in on the ground for a second time and found Frank Harris III for his second-career touchdown to put 14 more points on the scoreboard, but ultimately fell to Arizona 62-31.

Helbig thew for 270 yards on 27 completions on Saturday night. He threw for one touchdown and ran for two more. On the ground Green Jr. had 15 carries for 79 yards and a touchdown, while Landen Measom was the leading receiver with five catches for 74 yards.

Defensively, Chinedu Ahanonu led the team with six tackles and a tackle for loss. Raymond Fiame had five tackles as well for the T-Birds.

Next Saturday the Thunderbirds will move into Big Sky Conference play with a matchup against the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks.

“That’s a big game and obviously we would have liked to have a win going in there, but at the end of the day our goal is to win the Big Sky Conference and I feel like we have the team to do it,” Warren said. “We’ve got to grow up quickly, but I think the last couple weeks we’ve built the confidence that we can play with anyone in our conference and now we’ve just got to put a full game together.”

Box Score

Story and Photo Courtesy of: SUU Athletics Strategic Communication