After a rough start to the season and the unknown status of starting Quarterback Chris Helbig, what is next for the Southern Utah football team?
When Helbig went down on the last play of the first half against Northern Arizona, the season seemed to be suspended in midair for a moment. Helbig had been the brightest spot of the rocky start. It seemed like Helbig had taken control of the team and was ready to guide them through the conference schedule.
Now that Helbig is out with an injury Head Coach Demario Warren called “not good,” the T-Birds turn to former 4-star recruit junior Aaron Zwahlen. Zwahlen played well against Northern Arizona, throwing for 139 yards and a TD.
Zwahlen has a cannon. He showed off his arm against NAU with some expert throws down the sidelines on his first drive. He appeared calm in the pocket and confident in his arm strength.
The concern with Zwahlen is accuracy. He overthrew receivers a few too many times in Flagstaff, and some of those poor passes were intercepted by the Lumberjacks. Zwahlen struggled in his only 2017 start against Sacramento State, where he threw three interceptions.
Limiting turnovers will be essential going forward. The T-Birds gave up the ball three times last week, and only forced one turnover. If Zwahlen is going to turn things around for the T-Birds, he’ll need to limit turnovers and make smart decisions to shake off his previous interception demons.
The defense needs to make the game as easy as possible for Zwahlen. They need to limit points because SUU might not be able to outscore its opponents. Their performance against NAU was their best of the season, but NAU’s backup QB put up almost 500 total yards and 31 points on them.
“Defense has one problem we need to fix, and that’s discipline. Every single day, every single moment we need to be disciplined. That’s the focus,” said Warren.
Warren delivered that quote between deep breaths and with sweat pouring down his face. The coach had just run with the team during conditioning. All of the coaches ran with the players. The coaching staff is doing everything they can to stress discipline and focus.
The defense needs the extra emphasis. The defense has given up more than 500 yards and 30 points in all four games this season, and that needs to change quickly.
Running backs James Felila and Jay Green Jr. have set the tone for the offense and have moved the chains plenty in the first weeks. The ground game has been strong. The offense rushed for over 200 yards in a loss for the second time last week
The T-Birds have caught some unfortunate breaks so far. Helbig’s injury, the two interceptions called back at the goaline against Northern Alabama, and being overwhelmed by Pac-12 schools are all things out of the T-Bird’s control.
Bye weeks are the perfect time to figure the little things out and to work on the discipline that Warren mentioned in practice. The coaching staff will have two full weeks of preparation before the team heads to Cheney to take on Eastern Washington.
Winning on the red carpet is not easy for any team, and the T-Birds will need to bring their best against the preseason number one ranked Eagles.
If they don’t upset the Eagles, they’ll start 0-5 for the first time since 2007, the only winless season in program history.
Story by: Connor Sanders
Photo by: SUU Athletics Strategic Communication