In their third home game of the season, Southern Utah University came up short against the University of Northern Colorado Bears 17-9. The Thunderbirds fall to 1-7 on the year and remain winless in the Big Sky Conference.
The Thunderbirds forced the Bears into an early fourth down, but UNC quarterback Dylan McCaffrey kept things alive and broke off a 52-yard run. The play set up a 4-yard touchdown from McCaffrey to receiver Cassidy Woods.
SUU’s opening drive stalled out at the UNC 32-yard line, and a failed fourth down conversion turned the ball over on downs. With the Bears again in possession, a big sack from freshman defensive lineman Kiki Laie caused McCaffrey to fumble the football. The Thunderbirds recovered with a short field, now on the UNC 20-yard line.
Again, the offense just could not put together plays in the red zone and they were forced to bring out redshirt senior Noah Alejado to kick a field goal and make the score 7-3. Although they were on the board, settling for a field goal had to feel like a waste of such good field position.
The Grizzlies opened the second quarter with the ball and again made it deep into SUU territory. They did most of their damage on the ground, including a 29-yard scamper from running back Tru Wilson. After that run, SUU’s defense held tight and forced a field goal — keeping them within reach at 10-3.
It was a defensive battle from that point on, with both defenses forcing consecutive three and outs. SUU looked to have a chance to score again midway through the quarter when sophomore receiver Brandon Schenks had an electric 46-yard catch and run to the UNC 35-yard line. The drive stalled after that though, and a missed field goal from SUU kept the score 10-3.
The defensive battle continued in the second half — both teams exchanging punts on the first couple of drives. On their second possession of the half, Miller found Schenks for another big play, this time a 22-yard dime as Schenks was able to tap his toes in bounds on the sideline.
A few plays later, the Thunderbirds found themselves three yards away from the endzone. Unfortunately, they were only able to walk away with another field goal after the Bears made an impressive goal-line stand. The score was now 10-6.
SUU’s offense continued to struggle into the fourth quarter while Northern Colorado’s was able to do just enough. The Bears executed a 17-play touchdown drive that ate up just under eight minutes of the clock and extended their lead 17-6.
The Thunderbirds would go on to kick another field goal, hoping to make one final stop and score a touchdown to tie up the game. The defense made that stop, forcing a Northern Colorado punt with just under two minutes to go, but the offense just was not there for SUU.
The opportunities were there for the Thunderbirds, but they were never able to take advantage of them. SUU football returns to action next Saturday, Oct. 30 when they will travel to Missoula to face the University of Montana Grizzlies. Kickoff is at noon and the game can be watched on Root Sports.
Story By: Christian Esparza Sports@suunews.net
Photo Courtesy of SUU Athletics