Southern Utah University Football picked up their first win of the fall season in a 40-35 win against Tarleton State University.
The Texans were the first Football Championship Subdivision opponent that SUU has faced this season, after their first two games came against bigger Football Bowl Subdivision schools.
The Thunderbirds established themselves on the ground early and scored on their opening drive, riding off of big runs from Karris Davis and Thomas Duckett. Eventually, quarterback Justin Miller found David Atencio for a 16-yard touchdown.
Tarleton State answered back with a touchdown of their own, attacking SUU and their secondary through the air. This set a trend for the rest of the first half, where both teams traded touchdowns for several drives. The only big defensive play came late in the second quarter where Tarleton State’s defensive back Devin Hafford intercepted Miller and returned it for a touchdown.
Miller and the Thunderbirds again responded with a score of their own with Miller finding receiver Brandon Schenks for his third touchdown of the half. The teams went into halftime tied at 28.
Tarleton State opened the third quarter with a punt, setting the tone for a relatively slow period that saw only SUU score a single touchdown. The Thunderbirds did miss the extra point however, giving them only a six- point lead.
SUU opened the fourth quarter looking to score again, but the drive was halted with another interception by Hafford. Tarleton State put together a 15-play drive that resulted in a touchdown, leading 35-34 after the extra point.
The Thunderbirds were unable to do anything on their next drive, but their defense was good enough to hold Tarleton State scoreless as well. SUU got the ball back with just over two minutes left, still facing a one point deficit.
Miller led his team down to the 3-yard line where Davis was able to punch in a touchdown. With the possibility of increasing the lead to seven points, the Thunderbirds elected to go for two but it was no good, leaving the score at 40-35 for SUU.
Needing a touchdown to win, the Texans took the field with just over a minute and a half remaining. Having recorded a sack earlier in the game, standout linebacker La’a Kaho’ohanohano-Davis intercepted Tarleton quarterback Duncan Stevenson to reverse possession.
Tarleton’s defense held up and forced the Thunderbirds to punt the ball, giving the Texans another chance to score and win the game — a sight SUU fans know all too well from their spring season. Luckily this time, the Thunderbirds held up on defense to win the game.
SUU will play their homecoming game next Saturday, Sept. 25 against Big Sky opponent Eastern Washington. Kickoff is at 6 p.m. and the game will also be streamed on ESPN+.
Story By: Christian Esparza Sports@suunews.net
Photo Courtesy of SUU Athletics