It was a brutal fall season for sports at Southern Utah University and there is no way around it. Football, soccer, and volleyball, the three team sports, went a combined 9-45-2 across three and a half months of play.
In the university’s last year as part of the Big Sky Conference, all three teams finished last in the conference standings. For football, their season culminated in the team and Head Coach Demario Warren officially parting ways.
Here is a quick recap of each team’s season:
Football, 1-10 (0-8 Big Sky)
“I apologize to the SUU football program and anybody who has been a part of it and also to the SUU community and Cedar City,” said Warren. “I’ve never made excuses before and so I won’t start now. I try to give this everything I’ve got and pour everything I have into it. I love SUU and Cedar City and I’m sorry we couldn’t give them more tonight.”
Those were the coach’s words after a 62-0 blowout loss in his final game as head coach for the Thunderbirds.
The team started off with two tough road contests against San Jose State University and Arizona State University, losing both games by 27 or more points. Their third opponent was more on their level of competition and SUU came out on top against Tarleton State University in a 40-35 thriller. The win instilled a feeling of hope for the rest of the season only for that to be crushed when they lost 50-21 to Eastern Washington University on SUU’s homecoming night.
The team looked to rebound the following week at home against Portland State University, but a 7-point loss demoralized the team for good. It was their first close loss of the season and it established a trend of the offense not being able to finish drives when it mattered. The team would lose two other games by eight or less points and in each game they would be unable to score in crucial moments.
The offense scored 20 or less points in seven out of their 11 games. They were unable to consistently find a rhythm as the passing and running games never clicked at the same time.
Quarterback Justin Miller finished his redshirt sophomore season 229 of 373 (61%) for 2,416 yards, 9 touchdowns and 13 interceptions across 11 games. Senior running back Karris Davis led the team with 71 carries and 365 yards.
Defensively, the amount of healthy players dwindled as the season wore down. Senior linebacker La Kaho’Ohanohano Davis led the team with 73 total tackles, three sacks and one interception even though he missed two games because of injury. Linebacker Quaid Murray, fourth on the team in tackles with 50, tore his ACL in the last away game of the season which prematurely ended his senior season.
One of the only positives from this season for SUU football was the play of Braxton Jones. The senior left tackle came into the year selected to Phil Steele’s preseason All-American Team. Jones routinely made light work of opposing defensive lineman and dominated with his combination of size and athleticism. Jones led a unit that gave up just 20 sacks on the year. Shortly after the season ended, Jones accepted an invitation to the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl which will give him an opportunity to showcase his talent in front of NFL coaches and scouts.
Soccer 2-13-2 (1-6-2 Big Sky)
SUU soccer came into the year with high hopes as Head Coach Kai Edwards looked to build upon an inspiring first season. In the spring of 2021, his first season at the helm, Edwards led the team to its first winning season in over a decade. This year’s squad was a lot different than last year’s though, as just under half of the players on the young roster are listed as true freshmen. On top of that, this team too struggled with injuries. Only four players appeared in all 17 games.
The team had trouble putting up points all season and they were shut out in nine of their 17 contests.
Still though, Edwards is working hard to remind people that SUU does in fact have a women’s soccer team. He was awarded a contract extension over the summer and looks to change the culture while he is here through at least 2024. Having this young roster for Edwards to develop should bring fortune down the road.
Sophomore wing Kamryn Farro was named as a Big Sky All-Conference Honorable Mention after the season ended. Farro tied for the team lead with four points and two assists across 16 games played.
Goalkeeper Megan Short also enjoyed an impressive season, finishing the year with 94 total saves in her 15 appearances as a redshirt freshman.
Volleyball 6-22 (2-14 Big Sky)
Volleyball was dealt possibly the worst hand of the three, coming off of a playoff appearance last spring. Just a month before the season started, SUU announced that Head Coach Pete Hoyer would be relieved of his duties. With no time to waste, Kacey Nady was hired just three weeks before the first match of the season against Brigham Young University. Nady was previously an assistant coach at the University of San Francisco from 2019-20.
The Thunderbirds won a couple of big matches early in the season at home against in-state rival Dixie State University and over the University of Idaho on homecoming night. After that homecoming match in late September though, SUU volleyball would only win one more match the rest of the year. They were swept in nine of their 14 Big Sky matchups.
Redshirt senior Stacey Hone had a phenomenal season in her last year as a Thunderbird. The opposite hitter finished the season with 235 kills and 69 blocks. Raegan Ashby also had a big season as the middle blocker where she led the team with 113 blocks and added 149 kills to just 45 errors for a team-high .280 hitting percentage.
It is worth mentioning that SUU’s men’s cross country team is continuing its success. For the seventh time in the last eight years, they competed in the NCAA National Championship where they placed 24th.
Allison Pray was the only representative from the women’s team to compete at nationals for the third time in her historic career. Pray finished 20th individually and became the first female cross country All-American in SUU program history.
Story By: Christian Esparza
Photo Courtesy of SUU Athletics