Southern Utah University football came up short to the Utah Tech University Trailblazers 48-36 on Saturday. Both teams went back and forth throughout the game. Despite big plays by the Thunderbirds at the end of the game, the Trailblazers still came away with the victory.
The Trailblazers started quickly, jumping out to a 17-3 lead over the Thunderbirds at the end of the first quarter. The highlight of the first quarter was redshirt freshman quarterback Victor Gabalis connecting with junior receiver Rickie Johnson on a 79-yard touchdown pass for Utah Tech. The Thunderbirds were only able to muster three points, courtesy of a 28-yard field goal from sophomore Micah Pettit.
The Thunderbirds stormed back in the second quarter, scoring 19 points. Junior running back Isaiah Williams started the momentum shift with a three-yard touchdown run, cutting the lead to seven. Both teams went three and out on the following drives. Redshirt senior punter Jake Gerardi, who has been one of the premier players for the Thunderbirds, pinned Utah Tech deep in their own territory for their next drive. SUU’s defense was able to force a safety and cut into the Trailblazers’ lead a little more, making the score 17-12 for Utah Tech.
Later on in the second quarter, the Thunderbird rushing attack found the endzone again as graduate running back Elijiah Burns punched it in from five yards out for the Thunderbirds’ first lead of the game: 19-17. Both teams fought for the lead, with the Trailblazers taking a 27-22 lead going into the half.
The Thunderbird offense was outmatched by the Trailblazers in the third quarter, being outscored 14-7.
Gabalis connected with sophomore receiver Joey Hobert for a 39-yard touchdown pass and later on found Johnson again, this time for a 75-yard strike for the Trailblazers. Johnson finished the game with nine receptions for 277 yards and three touchdowns. The only touchdown of the third quarter for the Thunderbirds was scored by redshirt junior quarterback Justin Miller, who finished with 273 passing yards in the game. The Thunderbirds trailed 41-28 going into the fourth quarter.
Both defenses fought hard during the final quarter with neither team giving up much. The Thunderbirds would finally break through, with Williams earning his second touchdown of the night, making it 41-36 in favor of the Trailblazers. Southern Utah had multiple chances to tie the game but were stopped by the Utah Tech defense. The Trailblazers put the final nail in the coffin, scoring late in the fourth quarter and putting a Thunderbird comeback to rest. The Trailblazers would win 48-36.
The Thunderbirds dropped to 3-6 on the season and will have their final home game next week against California’s Lincoln University on Saturday, Nov. 12, with kickoff at 1 p.m. The game will be held at Eccles Coliseum and will be streamed on ESPN+.
Article by: Anthony Colasuono
Photo courtesy of SUU Athletics