Southern Utah University football suffered their third close loss of the season, this time to the University of Idaho Vandals Saturday. This loss pushes SUU down to 1-3 on the year with two regular season games remaining. All three losses have come by a combined four points.
Idaho put together a nice opening drive, marching their way down the field and capitalizing on a one-yard run by Roshaun Johnson.
Southern Utah immediately answered back with a huge 46-yard kick return, setting up the T-Birds nicely. Two plays later, Brandon Schenks took a pass over the middle and ran for 48 yards all the way down to the six yard line. Jay Green Jr. was eventually able to charge his way into the endzone and tie the game up 7-7.
In the Vandals’ second drive, they again took advantage of eight to 15 yard plays to eat up the clock and get into the redzone. Then on third and one, SUU defensive end Francis Bemiy was able to bring down Idaho quarterback, CJ Jordan, for a sack that helped hold the Vandals to a field goal.
Following drives ending in punts from both teams before Miller was again able to hook up with Schenks for a huge play. This one was a 68 yard touchdown that put the Thunderbirds up 15-10 following a two-point conversion.
Vandals running back Nick Romano brought the ensuing kickoff out 35 yards, and Jordan was able to hook up with receiver Cutrell Haywood for a 20 gain. SUU’s defense then rebounded, forcing an incompletion on fourth down to get the ball back. Miller and the T-Birds put together a seven play drive that ended in a six-yard touchdown pass to Tanner McLachlan to go up 22-10.
Idaho’s next drive ended a field goal, and SUU just ran out the clock to end the half.
Neither team scored in the third quarter until about 10 minutes in, when Vandals running back Dylan Thigpen took an outside run 24 yards to the endzone. The score capped off a nine play, 89 yard drive that ate up over four minutes of gametime and brought the Vandals within two.
Miller and the Thunderbirds’ offense hit a lull in the third quarter, struggling to move the ball at all. Their offensive woes led to an interception on second and 10 as Miller was hurried by defensive lineman Nate DeGraw. Fortunately for SUU, the defense came out strong and sacked Johnson twice in a row, forcing a punt. Johnson was injured on the play and did not return.
Facing the possibility of going scoreless in the third quarter, Miller was able to connect with Landon Measom for a 60 yard touchdown. The score at the end of the third was 29-20.
Third string quarterback Nikhil Nayar led the Vandals on a touchdown drive to open the fourth quarter and bring the vandals within two.
After Miller was intercepted a second time, SUU’s defense answered strong and forced a three and out. The Thunderbirds marched down the field but stalled around the 29 yard line. Facing fourth and 10, the T-Birds elected to kick the 46 yard field goal, and it put them up 32-27 with a little over two minutes left to play.
Down by five, Nayar led the Vandals on their most impressive drive of the night. The redshirt sophomore marched down the field, almost effortlessly hitting his receivers for solid gains.. Nayar found Haywood in the back of the endzone for a touchdown, and the Vandals went up 33-32 with only seven seconds left on the clock.
SUU was unable to score with such little time remaining ending the game on a failed hook and ladder play.
The Thunderbirds return to Cedar City next Saturday, April 7, where they will take on in-state rival, Weber State University at 2 p.m.
Story by: Christian Esparza
Photo courtesy of SUU Athletic Department Strategic Communication