The Southern Utah University football team beat California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, Calif. Saturday by a score of 34-24 to claim the team’s first win of the 2021 spring season.
Saturday’s win marks the first for SUU in San Luis Obispo since 1987 and the T-Birds’ first road victory since Nov. 11, 2017 — snapping a 14-game losing streak.
Southern Utah scored on the third play from scrimmage when Justin Miller found Brandon Schenks on a crossing route, and Schenks ambled up the sideline and into the endzone for a 75-yard touchdown reception.
The T-Birds thwarted the Mustangs’ next drive when Roderick Ward burst into the backfield and tackled Lepi Lataimua behind the line of scrimmage on fourth down to force a turnover.
Miller led the offense into Mustang territory on the ensuing possession, but the drive was derailed after a fumbled snap. Jake Gerrardi mishandled the long snap on his punt attempt, giving Cal Poly great field position after recovering the fumble.
Hamler marched his team all the way down to the two yard line and found Quentin Harrison on a high fade pass to pull his team even midway through the first quarter.
SUU responded with a long drive into the redzone after the kickoff behind some explosive runs between the tackles by Jay Green Jr. Miller was sacked on third down with the T-Birds around the 10 yard line — setting up a 33-yard field goal by Manny Berz to put SUU up 10-7 with 48 seconds left in the first half.
The T-Bird defense forced a three-and-out on the next possession, and a good return by Judd Cockett set the T-Birds up at their own 45 yard line to start the second quarter. Green moved the sticks with a few short runs before a pass interference penalty by Jamarri Jackson moved SUU into the redzone.
Miller found David Atencio on a quick out route on the next play and Atencio was able to get to the corner of the endzone for a 13-yard touchdown catch on his first reception of the 2021 season. Berz knocked in the extra point and put SUU ahead 17-7.
A pair of sacks by the T-Bird defense killed Cal Poly’s next drive, and a scuffed punt by backup quarterback Hunter Raquet set Miller and the offense up at the Mustangs’ 26-yard line. Dayne Christiansen scampered outside the left tackle and into the endzone for a 17-yard score two plays later. Another extra point from Berz gave SUU a 24-7 advantage.
Cal Poly drove down the field inside SUU’s 25-yard line, but Greg Rogers pulled Hamler down in the backfield to force the T-Birds’ second fourth down stop of the half.
Miller launched a long pass to Lance Lawson on the first play of the ensuing drive, and Lawson adjusted in the air and pulled the ball in at Cal Poly’s 40-yard line. SUU marched down to the 13-yard line, where Miller delivered a perfectly-thrown pass on a wheel route to Schenks for another score.
SUU went into the half with a 31-7 lead as Miller racked up three scores and 189 yards through the air before the break. The T-Birds generated 274 yards of total offense compared to just 106 for the Mustangs.
Cal Poly received the ball in the second half and scored quickly as Hamler threw a deep ball down the sideline to Harrison for a touchdown. Harrison rose above the defense and pulled it in with one hand for his second score of the game. The Mustangs trailed 31-14 with 13:11 remaining in the third quarter.
The Mustang defense then forced a three-and-out following the kickoff, and Gerrardi’s punt went out of bounds at Cal Poly’s 47-yard line to give Hamler a short field. Hamler found Michale Briscoe on a crossing route for a 29 yard gain on the first play of the drive, but the offense stalled on the six yard line.
SUU forced a stop when Chuby Dunu dropped a pass on the two-yard line to keep the score at 31-14. Gerrardi was forced to punt from his own endzone after a 51-yard rush by Green was called back due to a holding penalty, and the Mustangs again had excellent field position — starting the drive at SUU’s 45-yard line.
But Hamler sailed a pass into the hands of SUU safety Akili Gray on the first play of the drive, forcing the first turnover of the season by the T-Bird defense. SUU couldn’t score on its next possession, but maintained the 17 point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Colton Theaker made a field goal with a little over 12 minutes remaining in the game to cut the lead to 14, but SUU’s offense responded with a field goal of its own seven minutes later.
Cal Poly put together another drive and found the endzone with 1:22 remaining, but the lead proved to be insurmountable.
With the win, SUU moves to 1-2 on the season with three games remaining. The T-Birds are on a bye next week and will travel to Moscow, Idaho to take on the University of Idaho on Saturday, March 27.
Story by: Connor Sanders
Photo by: Mitchell Quartz