Thunderbirds Drop Big Sky Opener to NAU

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The Thunderbird football team opened up Big Sky Conference play on Saturday night against the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks falling to 0-4 on the season with a 31-23 loss.

“I thought the guys came out in the second half and battled, they didn’t quit,” SUU head coach Demario Warren said. “We’ve got a great group of kids that are going to continue to fight, so I appreciate their effort, but we made too many mistakes to be able win the football game. And that’s on me as a coach, I have to make sure we continue to get better.”

Things started relatively slow for the Thunderbirds, as they weren’t able to strike in the opening 15 minutes. The Lumberjacks got on the board once in the opening frame to take a 7-0 lead into the second quarter.

With 10:46 to play in the second frame T-Bird starting quarterback Chris Helbig broke into the endzone on a quarterback keeper, which tied the game at 7-7. NAU added a second touchdown before the break, giving them a 14-7 lead going into the break.

Unfortunately for the Thunderbirds, Helbig left the game late in the first half with an apparent injury and did not return. Aaron Zwahlen took over quarterback duties in place of Helbig.

In the third quarter, the T-Birds found their momentum. After forcing a three-and-out the Thunderbirds drove the field and Jay Green Jr. punched it in to tie the contest at 14-14. On their following drive, the T-Birds added a Manny Berz field goal from 31 yards away to take a 17-14 lead.

After the Lumberjacks responded with a field goal of their own to tie the game at 17-17, Zwahlen found Nick Colson for a touchdown to regain a 23-17 lead after a blocked PAT. Unfortunately for the SUU, that would be the last time they’d score on Saturday night.

The Lumberjacks scored with 2:10 left in the third quarter and with 5:36 to go in the fourth to pull away with a 31-23 victory.

Zwahlen finished the contest with 15 completions for 139 yards and a touchdown. On the ground Green Jr. had 16 carries for 101 yards and a touchdown. The T-Birds had 224 yards through the air and 218 on the ground.

Chinedu Ahanonu had nine tackles on Saturday night, while Webb had seven with two pass breakups.

The Thunderbirds will take their bye week next week before another Big Sky matchup on the road against the Eagles of Eastern Washington.

Story Courtesy of: SUU Athletics Strategic Communication
Photo Courtesy of: Anita Bunker