Defense Shines in Loss at Montana

Southern Utah University travelled north to take on the University of Montana Grizzlies in Missoula. The heartbreak continued for the Thunderbirds as they lost by one point, 20-19. The Thunderbirds continue to slide in the season’s record, now down to 1-8 and winless in the Big Sky Conference. 

The game started off very slow with neither team scoring in their first two possessions. The Thunderbirds then woke up when a botched snap from the Grizzlies turned into a fumble recovery by SUU. Sophomore quarterback Justin Miller responded by leading a seven-minute scoring drive. SUU’s offense ran 16 plays on that drive, but the offense ran out of gas and only walked away with a field goal from senior kicker Noah Alejado.

The Thunderbirds started the second quarter with a bang, forcing another fumble on a Quaid Murray strip sack. It was the junior linebacker’s second sack of the season. The offense turned another opportunity into points, this time walking away with a touchdown after a 2-yard rush from sophomore running back Isaiah Williams. However, a missed extra point from Alejado would come back to haunt them later. 

Montana scored 10 quick points to go up by one point. With five minutes left in the half, Miller and the offense set out to increase their lead. They did just that when the quarterback connected with sophomore receiver Brandon Schenks for a 60-yard catch and run touchdown. SUU went into halftime with a 16-10 lead. 

The Grizzlies clawed their way back into the lead after quarterback Kris Brown tossed a 24-yard touchdown to Cole Grossman to go up 17-16. After the teams exchanged ensuing field goals, The Grizzlies remained ahead 20-19. 

For the second week in a row, SUU’s defense forced a stop late in the fourth but the offense was unable to score. Montana drove into SUU territory, but a huge fumble recovery from junior safety AJ Stanley gave the Thunderbirds a short field. Only down by one, even a field goal would suffice. Unfortunately, the 36-yard attempt was blocked and the Grizzlies proceeded to wear down the clock. 

SUU’s defense shined in the close loss. The Thunderbirds won the turnover battle 4-1, finishing with three fumble recoveries and one interception. Linebacker Jayden Clark led the team with 10 tackles and one of the fumble recoveries. 

Miller finished with 250 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception. As a team, the Thunderbirds gained 81 yards on the ground, their lowest total since they ran for 78 against Arizona State.  

The Thunderbirds will travel to Moscow, Idaho for a matchup with the University of Idaho Vandals in their final away game of the season on Saturday, Nov. 6. Kickoff is at 2 p.m. and the game can be watched on ESPN+.

Story By: Christian Esparza                                                                                                                                            Sports@suunews.net

Photo Courtesy of SUU Athletics

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