The Southern Utah University Thunderbirds traveled to Nacogdoches, Texas, on Saturday, Nov. 11, for a conference showdown against the Stephen F. Austin State University Lumberjacks. They successfully built upon their two-game winning streak with a 45-17 win.
The Thunderbirds got the scoring attack started after forcing a punt from the Lumberjacks. Driving down the field and getting within field goal range, freshman Tyler Graham knocked down the 34-yard attempt to give Southern Utah the 3-0 lead.
Going into the second quarter, SFA looked to answer back with a 42-yard field goal of their own from junior Chris Campos, knotting the game at three points apiece.
Following the field goal, both teams chewed up the clock with wasted drives; the Thunderbirds punted the ball away, and the Lumberjacks missed a 48-yard field goal. This continued until Southern Utah senior quarterback Justin Miller was able to find fellow senior Isaiah Wooden for a 25-yard touchdown pass, giving the Thunderbirds a 10-3 lead going into the half.
The third quarter was all Southern Utah, starting with the first drive of the half when the familiar Miller-to-Wooden connection was on full display. The duo connected on a 67-yard touchdown to bring the Southern Utah lead to 17-3.
The defensive prowess of the Thunderbirds was displayed when they forced a quick three-and-out, giving the ball back to the offense. Again, it was Miller finding Wooden, this time for a 34-yard touchdown, giving both players a hat trick for the game and increasing the lead to 24-3.
Both teams’ offenses came alive in the fourth. Southern Utah struck first on another pass from Miller to Wooden, this time coming off a seven-yard strike to give both players four touchdowns in the game. Southern Utah’s lead jumped to 31-3.
SFA answered back almost immediately when senior Preston Weeks connected with sophomore Cameron Dotson on a 46-yard pass, cutting into the Thunderbirds’ lead and making it 31-10 in favor of Southern Utah.
Trying to run the clock down, Southern Utah turned to a heavy reliance on the ground game, resulting in two touchdowns in the final frame of action. First, sophomore Braedon Wissler found the back of the endzone on a 30-yard scramble. Next, it was freshman running back Cade Bowring’s turn as he took a handoff 10 yards for a touchdown on only his fourth collegiate carry. These back-to-back touchdowns made the score 45-10.
With one last chance to score, the Lumberjacks drove down the field over the remainder of the quarter, culminating in a seven-yard pass from Weeks to sophomore Isaiah Davis in the final seconds.
With the win, the Thunderbirds move to 5-5 overall and 3-2 in United Athletic Conference play. The loss drops SFA to 3-7 overall and 0-5 within the conference.
The Thunderbirds will now make the trip to Greater Zion Stadium in St. George for the season finale against the Utah Tech University Trailblazers on Saturday, Nov. 18. Kickoff is slated for 5 p.m., and the game can be streamed on ESPN+.
Author: Aidan Mortensen
Photographer: Anden Garfield
Editor: Anden Garfield