Southern Utah University’s football team fell short in their matchup against South Dakota State on Saturday, Sept. 21 by the score of 43-7.
Untimely turnovers and special teams miscues put the game out of reach for the T-Birds.
SDSU opened the scoring with a 30-yard passing touchdown from J’Bore Gibbs to Cade Johnson, who finished as the leading receiver for SDSU with 68 yards on 5 receptions.
SUU’s defense held strong on multiple drives despite giving up large chunks of yardage resulting in touchdowns. Carlton Johnson picked off SDSU quarterback J’Bore Gibbs late in the first quarter, setting up SUU for a score from the Jackrabbit’s 20 yard line.
Despite the positive field position, the T-Birds failed to punch it in the endzone, bringing out Kicker Kekoa Sasaoka to try for the field goal. Jackrabbit defensive end Ryan Earith got his hand up to block the first of three missed field goals for Sasaoka on the night.
Special teams miscues didn’t end there for SUU, as the offense opened up the second half with a three-and-out leading to a muffed punt that ended up rolling out of the back of the endzone for a safety.
South Dakota finished the game with two more touchdowns drives before taking a knee for the final minute of play.
Despite the final score, SUU showed promise in their performances across the board.
Quarterback Chris Helbig finished with a 68% completion percentage with 211 yards through the air. The redshirt sophomore added 40 yards on the ground on 14 attempts including the lone score of the game.
Running back James Felila shared the load with Helbig by tacking on 46 yards rushing in 14 carries. Sophomore Thomas Duckett eased Felila’s load with seven carries resulting in 23 yards.
Wide receiver Lance Lawson shone bright in the receiving game. He stood above the rest with nine receptions spanning 75 yards. T-Bird receiver Isaiah Diego-Williams reeled in the next most receptions with four, while Judd Cockett and John Mitchell hauled in 3 of their own.
On the other side of the ball, Carlton Johnson and Nathaniel Vaughn each interceoted J’Bore Gibbs. Linebacker Nela Otukolo led the team with seven tackles, with Vaughn right behind him with six.
The Thunderbirds fly home next for their homecoming game against Cal Poly on Saturday, Sept. 28, also kicking off Big Sky Conference play for the 2019 season.
Story by: Tomas D’Anella
Photo courtesy of SUU Athletics