The Southern Utah University Thunderbirds couldn’t erase an early deficit as the UC Davis Aggies won 33-25.
It was a game of two halves for SUU as they struggled early in the game, down 26-7 at halftime. Both sides of the ball picked up for the Thunderbirds in the second half, outscoring the Aggies 18-7, including a fourth quarter shut out to keep the comeback alive.
The Aggies’ willingness to go for it on fourth down contributed to the result as they scored on fourth twice throughout the night. The Thunderbirds tried their luck going for the fourth down conversions and converted on two of three tries, turning one of those into a touchdown.
SUU turned things around in the second half with big defensive stops that limited the Aggies to only one score in the third quarter. Running back Jay Green Jr. jumped into the endzone at the very start of the fourth quarter, kickstarting both sides of the ball as the defense forced a punt before the offense drove down the field leading to another touchdown for Green.
The T-Bird defense shut down the Aggie’s offense providing quarterback Chris Helbig and the offense a chance to claw back into the game. The offense did all they could despite an interception with a little over six minutes left to play.
SUU’s last chance to win the ballgame was spoiled when they failed to recover an onside kick giving UC Davis a chance to run the clock down for the final minute of play.
Both quarterbacks in the game performed at high levels with Helbig out-throwing UC Davis QB Jake Maier. Helbig completed 29 of 44 passes, good for a 66% completion rate. His 29 completions went for a total of 313 yards while he added on 39 rushing yards on a team high 16 carries.
Jay Green Jr. was SUU’s leading rusher accruing 47 yards on 14 attempts including his two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. UC Davis relied on the run game, trying to run down the clock, utilizing Gilliam on 28 carries, good for 140 yards and one touchdown.
Landon Measom came up as a big target for Helbig as they connected on 11 receptions for 156 yards, including the longest play of the day with a 37-yard catch. Lance Lawson remained the Big Sky’s top receiver with five receptions tonight, bringing his season total to 62 receptions.
AJ Stanley stood out on defense for the Thunderbirds tallying 11 tackles and two pass breakups, helping the team stay in the fight late in the game. Linebacker Aubrey Nellems was another big presence on the defense as he totaled nine tackles including two behind the line of scrimmage.
SUU stays in Cedar City for their next matchup as the Idaho State Bengals come to town, with SUU looking for their first conference victory.
Story by Tomas D’Anella
Photo Courtesy of SUU Athletics