Articles for SUU - Thunderbirds
Articles for SUU - Thunderbirds
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif., Sept. 30 –
It looked like Southern Utah might break through and notch its first win in 20 years at San Luis Obispo Saturday night but with three minutes remaining Ramses Barden used all of his 6-foot-6 frame to out-jump a pair of Thunderbird defenders, pull in a 19 yard touchdown pass from Matt Brennan, and give Cal Poly an 18-14 win in the 2006 Great West Football Conference opener.
Barden?s touchdown catch came with 3:00 to play in the game, just nine minutes after Southern Utah had taken a 14-3 lead. The Thunderbirds held a 7-03 lead at halftime, then took a 14-3 lead with 1:29 to go in the third when Brian Kofoed blocked a punt and Robert Takeno picked up the loose ball and returned it for a touchdown.
Cal Poly pulled within 14-11 after recovering a fumble at the SUU 38, with Brennan hitting Tredale Toliver in the end zone on the first play following the fumble. Brennan then found Joe Hall on a misdirection pass play for the two-point conversion.
On its ensuing possession Southern Utah alternated rushing and passing the ball, attempting to run the clock as much as possible but passing when necessary. It was on one of those passing situations that Joe Weighton set up Cal Poly?s go-ahead score with an interception of a Wes Marshall pass at the SUU 42 with 6:50 to go.
?The thing I?ve got to stress to our guys, who are going to take this really hard, is that we?re making progress,? SUU Coach Wes Meier said. ?We came into Cal Poly and took he nation?s No.5 ranked team right down to the wire. We need to be proud of what we accomplished tonight.?
Cal Poly took a 3-0 lead at the 6:45 mark of the first quarter on a 26-yard Nick Coromelas field goal but the Thunderbirds answered late in the second period after Takeno scooped up a loose ball inside the Cal Poly 20 and returned it inside Mustang territory. An illegal block in the back gave the Thunderbirds the ball on their own 41 yard line. Kyle Coop carried for 11 yards for a first down, then on third down Marshall hit Joey Hew Len over the middle for 14 yards and another first down. Two plays later Marshall found Larue Burley streaking down the left sideline on a 31-yard scoring pass.
?We did a great job, did a lot of things to win this game but we had some bad things happen that prevented us from winning,? Meier said. ?We had some turnovers that hurt us and we had a penalty or two – although nothing like we had earlier in the season – that stopped us.?
Southern Utah wound up with 232 yards of offense to 246 for Cal Poly, which came into the game with the second-ranked overall defense in I-AA, including the best pass defense. Marshall finished the game 9-of-29 passing for 116 yards but he was intercepted three times, twice in the final six minutes. Sanchez finished with 49 rushing yards. James Noble rushed for 130 yards for Cal Poly.
Articles for SUU - Thunderbirds
SUU (3-2) will also be looking to bounce back from a disappointing 18-14 loss at No. 5 Cal Poly last weekend. The Thunderbirds led 7-3 at halftime and entered the fourth quarter of that one leading 14-3 but four fourth quarter turnovers spelled doom for SUU, as the Mustangs were able to capitalize on two of them for touchdowns while the other two stifled SUU drives.
McNeese State (1-3) ? which will be playing its second Great West Football Conference opponent in as many weeks ? suffered its first home loss and its first to a I-AA opponent last Saturday when it dropped a 20-17 decision to South Dakota State. Like the Thunderbirds the Cowboys led at halftime, 17-6, but lost the lead, getting shut out in the second half when it lost a fumble and gave up 74 yards in penalties.
The Game: Southern Utah (3-2) at McNeese State (1-3), Saturday, 7:00 p.m. (Central), Cowboy Stadium (17,410/Grass).
The Series: Saturday?s game will be the fifth meeting between Southern Utah and McNeese St. on the football field, with each team having won twice on the others? field. The teams were originally scheduled to play this week?s game in Cedar City but moved it to Lake Charles after last year?s game in Lake Charles was cancelled due to Hurricane Rita. McNeese St. will travel to Cedar City next year. The Thunderbirds won the last meeting, a 56-14 decision in 2004, and took a 31-24 decision in Lake Charles in 1999. McNeese State opened the series with a 66-17 win in Cedar City and also came away with a 33-20 win at Eccles Coliseum in 2003.
SUU's Wes Meier (Utah, 1991) has a record of 10-16 five games into his third season as the Thunderbird head coach. Prior to taking the reigns of the SUU program in 2004, Meier served as the Thunderbirds? assistant head coach, special teams coordinator and defensive line coach in 2003, helping guide the team to a 4-7 record, the first step in rebuilding the team after back-to-back 2-9 and 1-10 seasons. Meier, who played defensive line at SUU in the mid-1980s, returned to the Thunderbirds after a long career in the Utah high school ranks. Meier is 1-0 vs. the Cowboys.
McNeese State?s Tommy Tate (McNeese St., 1979) is 49-26 in his seventh season as head coach of the Cowboys. He is 1-1 vs. the Thunderbirds.
-wise, SUU is 13th in scoring defense (12.3 ppg), 18th in total defense (254.6 ypg), 20th in punt returns (14.93 ypr), 21st in rushing defense (105.8 ypg) and 22nd in scoring offense (29.2 ppg). In addition, the Thunderbirds are 29th in pass defense (148.8 ypg), 30th in total offense (360.4 ypg) and kickoff returns (22.31 ypr), 32nd in sacks (2.20 spg), 34th in pass efficiency (133.5 rating), 36th in rushing offense (170.2 ypg) and are 37th in pass efficiency defense (112.81 rating)
The 301 passing yards and three touchdown passes were both single-game highs for Marshall. It also marked the first time an SUU quarterback had thrown for over 300 yards or three TDs since 2004, when Casey Rehrer had a four-TD game at McNeese State and a 302-yard passing effort in the season-finale vs. Idaho State.
Although Marshall didn?t have quite as prolific an outing, yardage-wise, against Western State, with 170 passing yards, he did throw four TD passes and rush for another while completing 13-of-16 attempts with one interception.
At Weber State he threw for 179 yards and a touchdown, completing 19-of-36 passes but was intercepted twice but he got right back on track vs. Texas State, completing 14-of-23 passes for 151 yards and two TDs without an interception. He struggled again at Cal Poly, against the No. 2 defense in the country, but did throw for 116 yards and a touchdown.
Through five games he has completed 76-of-129 passes for 917 yards with 11 touchdowns and six interceptions for a passer-efficiency rating of 137.46.
LB La?Var Porter led the Thunderbirds with nine tackles at Cal Poly, while LB Robert Takeno had eight with each player tallying seven solo stops. Takeno earned GWFC player of the week recognition after returning a fumble 48 yards and scoring after picking up a blocked punt as well.
Strong safety D.J. Senter tallied a team-season-high 10 tackles against Texas State.
Takeno and Senter each notched eight tackles at Weber State, the team?s highest individual totals of the season. Takeno had a team-high five solo stops while Senter had three tackles for loss, another individual high for the Thunderbirds this year.
Although no individual player had a superlative statistical night in the first two games, at least as far big-tackle numbers go ? the team?s tackles leader had six and five tackles in the first two games ? the defense certainly did its job. SUU limited Montana Tech to just 35 rushing yards, then held Western State to six. SUU gave up just 114 total yards to Tech and 103 to Western.
As far as individual totals go, Takeno leads the team with 30 tackles while Senter has 29 total and a team-high 19 solo stops. Porter also has 29 total tackles with 18 solo (tied with Takeno for second on the squad). DE Levi Erickson is fourth on the team with 21 tackles, leads the squad in sacks with 3.0 and is tied for the team lead in tackles for loss with Jimmy Judd with 4.0 each. CB Derrick Brown has a team-high four passes broken up and three Thunderbirds, Brown, CB Dave Zelasko and DE Aaron Fernandez each have an interception.
Getting Off On The Right Foot: Redshirt freshman Jordan Ortiz got his collegiate career started in a positive manner as he connected on his first field goal attempt, a 46-yarder against Montana Tech to give the Thunderbirds a 10-0 first-quarter edge. Although he missed on his next two tries, of 26 and 45 yards, he hit his final attempt, a 29-yarder, and was successful on all three of his extra-point attempts.
Spreading The Wealth:
Marshall and backup QB Brandon Godfrey completed passes to 11 receivers against Montana Tech. Hew Len led the way with seven receptions (120 yards) while Ryan Higgins had four (36 yards) and Larue Burley pulled in three (44 yards), two of which were acrobatic circus catches.
Hew Len, Burley and Landon Beus all caught touchdown passes vs. the Orediggers.
At Weber State Marshall had completions to nine receivers.
Although they didn?t spread the wealth quite as much against Western State or Texas State when the Thunderbirds relied more on the running game ? just six players caught passes in each game ? three players did catch TD passes against the Mountaineers: Hew Len (2), Coop and WR Bobby Pond.
Hew Len had two more TD receptions vs. Texas State while Burley got into the end zone for the first time this season via the pass at Cal Poly.
Return Game: Larue Burley has also had success on the return end of kicks and punts so far, highlighted by a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown at Weber State for the Thunderbirds? first score. He returned just one kickoff vs. Tech but he brought it 37 yards out of the end zone on the opening kickoff, then he returned two vs. WSC, another 37-yarder and a 26-yard effort. He returned a pair of punts a total of 37 yards vs. MTC, including a 30-yard return and had three returns vs. WSC, including a 19-yarder. Against Texas State he returned just one punt, but brought it back 14 yards and he took two kickoffs 59 yards, a 30-yarder and a 29-yarder. He struggled a bit more against Cal Poly?s coverage teams, which are ranked third in the nation, but still had a combined 70 yards on seven returns (4-23 on punts and 3-47 on kickoff returns).
Block That Kick!: Southern Utah scored on a blocked punt for the first time since Oct. 2, 2004 (when Amoni Finau blocked a punt at McNeese State and Jon King recovered it) at Cal Poly when Brian Kofoed got the block and Robert Takeno returned it 11 yards for a score. The block gave Kofoed three on the season as he also broke loose to block two against Western State, when senior tight end Brett Johansen blocked another. SUU had a special night on special teams vs. WSC, as on two more occasions SUU flushed WSC punter Jason Davis out of the pocket; the result was a seven-yard loss at the hands of WR Jeremy Edwards the first time but Davis scrambled 15 yards for a first down the second.
Chasing the Record Books:
Wes Marshall has already written his name into the SUU single-season record book this season. His 11 touchdown passes are tied for the seventh-most in a season by a Thunderbird, along with Rick Robins ? who had two seasons with 11 scoring strikes (1992 and 1994) ? and Jerry Dyer, who had 11 TD passes in 1976. Dyer is also alone in sixth place with 13 in 1974. Casey Rehrer holds the SUU record, with 21 in 2004.
Larue Burley is nearing another single-season top-10 mark. With 177 punt return yards he needs just 10 yards to tie Lenny Walterschied, who had 187 yards in 1976, for 10th place on that list.
The SUU/Cal Poly game was ? predictably ? a defensive scuffle. Southern Utah averaged 3.2 yards per play ? after averaging 6.2 per play coming in, while Cal Poly averaged just 4.2. Surprisingly, run-oriented Cal Poly held the upper hand in passing, averaging 7.2 yards per pass to 3.7 for the Thunderbirds, and the teams were basically even on the ground, with SUU averaging 2.8 yards per rush to the Mustangs? 3.0.
SUU?s 116 passing yards at Cal Poly were their fewest since a 103-yard effort vs. Idaho State in the 2002 season-finale.
Johnny Sanchez? 145-yard rushing effort against Texas State marked the first time an individual Thunderbird had surpassed the 100-yard rushing mark since Nov. 20, 2004, when Ryan Felipe had a 115-yard effort vs. Idaho State. That?s a string of 13 games.
When D.J. Senter sacked Texas State?s Bradley George for a safety, it was the first time since Oct. 12, 2002 ? when Paul Simmons blocked a punt in the end zone vs. Cal Poly ? that SUU had scored via safety.
The last time the Thunderbirds opened 3-2 was in 1999 when they beat Ft. Lewis (50-7), lost at Boise St. (35-27) then won at McNeese St. (31-24) and at home against Montana Tech (30-12), before losing at Cal Poly, 38-10. That year the Thunderbirds finished 8-3, their best mark during the Division I-AA era. The last time SUU opened a season 4-1 was in 1997.
Weber State?s touchdown in the first quarter against SUU was its first TD of the season. It was also the first TD the Thunderbirds had surrendered in 2006.
Southern Utah?s 55 points against Western State were its most since a 56-14 win at McNeese St. in 2004.
SUU?s 246 rushing yards vs. WSC were its most since a 278-yard effort vs. Montana Western in 2004.
The 52-point margin of victory over Western State was the Thunderbirds? largest since a 56-0 win over Occidental in 1979 and the second-largest margin of victory all-time at SUU.
The six rushing yards by the Mountaineers were the fifth-fewest allowed in SUU history while the 103 total yards were the fourth-fewest, just below the 114 allowed to Montana Tech the previous week.
SUU is in its 44th season as a four-year football-playing institution and its 21st as a member of the NCAA. The 2006 season also marks the Thunderbirds? 14th as a member of NCAA Division I-AA.
SUU picked up the 200th win as a four-year school in the season-opener vs. Montana Tech.
The Thunderbirds have six returning all-conference players, cornerback Brian Kofoed, defensive linemen Levi Erickson and Derek Hood, wide receiver Joey Hew Len, and offensive linemen Mike Knight and Matt Roan. All but Roan, a junior, will be seniors this year.
SUU also returns three academic all-GWFC honorees from the 2005 squad: Kofoed, Erickson and senior safety Spencer Meier.
McNeese State?s 1-3 record is deceiving, as the Cowboys have played a pair of I-A teams, South Florida and Toledo, on the road.
Through their first four games the Cowboys have relied on the run, offensively, averaging 155.2 rushing and 116.8 passing yards per game. RB Jamie Leonard (5-11, 191, Jr) has carried the ball 29 times for a team-high 213 yards and three scores, while redshirt freshman Derrick Fourroux (6-1, 187) is the second-leading rusher with 43 carries for 138 yards and a score. Freshman Todd Pendland has 13 carries for 103 yards and two TDs. Fourroux has completed 27-of-59 passes for 356 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. His favorite targets have been all-Southland pre-season selection Quinten Lawrence (6-1, 175, Jr) and Steven Whitehead (5-8, 171, Jr), who each have a dozen catches, Lawrence?s going for 235 yards and a TD and Whitehead?s going for 114 yards and a score.
Defensively the Cowboys are allowing 152.5 passing and 153.2 rushing yards per game. Strong safety Jamelle Juneau (6-2, 212, Jr) and DE Bryan Smith (6-3, 217, Jr), a pair of pre-season all-SFC second-team selections, co-lead the team in tackles with 27 each. Smith has a team-leading 10 tackles for loss, including six sacks and four QB hurries as well as two fumbles forced and two recovered. Two Cowboys, SS Stephen Barrett (6-1, 210, Sr) and DE Bryant Mason (6-3, 221, Jr) have recorded an interception this season.
Wes Meier On McNeese State: ?It?s not going to get any easier this week. We?re facing a good team that is hungry and mad and playing at home; that?s not a good combination for anyone going in there. This is another very talented team with speed and strength and depth. Defensively they have a great combination of size and athleticism and they give you a lot of different looks on both sides of the ball. On the offensive side of the ball they have a great quarterback, a great running back, great receivers and a big, physical line. They?re looking like the great McNeese teams of a few years back.
?I?ve looked at that South Dakota State tape and I still don?t know how [McNeese State] lost that game. McNeese is a very good football team.?
Meier on the Thunderbirds: ?We need to get over Cal Poly and move on. We?ve made a lot of improvement this year, we continue to improve in a lot of areas, perhaps most importantly in the area of confidence. The guys who were here last year have begun to overcome the negative feeling we had coming out of that kind of a season and our newcomers are buying into the fact that we can be a good football team. We can?t let a half-quarter at Cal Poly put a damper on what we?ve accomplished this year. We did almost everything we needed to at Cal Poly, against the fifth-ranked team in the country. Now we need to put that one behind us, get in a good week of practice, and get ready for a trip to another place that?s difficult to play and a game against another highly-regarded team.?
The Last Time SUU and McNeese State Met:
SUU 56; No. 23 McNeese State 14; Oct. 2, 2004, at Lake Charles, La. ? Southern Utah set a school-record for margin of victory on the road, tied its record for points scored on the road, had its punt return for a score since 1998, its first blocked punt for a score since 1999 and its first interception return for a score of the season as the Thunderbirds took advantage of three third period turnovers and a blocked punt to stun McNeese State, 56-14.
SUU won for the second time in two tries in Lake Charles in evening its record at 2-2 on the season while McNeese St. fell to 2-3 with the loss
Casey Rehrer completed 18-of-28 passes for 246 yards and four touchdowns to lead the offense while linebackers Nick DiPadova and Mike Overly paced the defense with 12 and 11 tackles, respectively.
Southern Utah dominated the first half, taking a 21-0 lead and holding the Cowboys to 101 yards of offense, but MSU looked like it was going to turn the tables, taking the opening kickoff of the second half, marching 64 yards on five plays and pulling within 21-7 on a 15-yard Scott Pendarvis-to-Chris Thomas pass. That was all the glory the Cowboys would have in the quarter, however, as the Thunderbirds took advantage of three fumbles and a blocked punt to score 28 unanswered points and take control.
?The way they came out and scored right at the beginning of the second half made me think ?oh no, here we go again,? but the guys responded well,? SUU Coach Wes Meier said. ?We pretty much shut them down the rest of the period and the defense really stepped up and made some plays.?
Mike Palefau forced a fumble by Darrick Brown to set up a 13-yard Rehrer-to-Ben Anderson scoring pass and give the Thunderbirds a 28-7 lead. On the following MSU possession Steve Smith stripped Jason Miller, giving SUU the ball on the MSU 28. several plays later Elaisa Tuiaki was on the scoring end of a 10-yard pass from Rehrer for a 35-7 SUU edge.
On the ensuing MSU possession it was Derek Hood?s turn to shine, as the sophomore defensive tackle tallied a sack and then forced a fumble to give SUU the ball on the MSU 18 and on their first play from scrimmage the T-Birds cashed in as Rehrer hit A.J. Smith on an 18-yard scoring pass.
SUU?s final score in the period came after Amoni Finau blocked a Jason Cook punt into the end zone where Jon King made the recovery for the score and a 49-7 lead.
Southern Utah?s final score came on a 69-yard interception return by Brandon Perkins.
Southern Utah took a 7-0 lead after marching 84 yards the game?s opening possession with Tuiaki carrying one yard for the score. On the Cowboys? ensuing possession the Thunderbirds made a major defensive statement by holding McNeese State on second-, third- and fourth-and-goal to hang on to the 7-0 advantage.
Ryan Felipe staked SUU to a14-0 lead with a 65-yard punt return and the Thunderbirds took a 21-0 halftime advantage after Rehrer hit Smith in the left flat on a four-yard touchdown pass.
After playing all 10 games ? and scheduling all 11, with last year?s game at McNeese St. wiped out by Hurricane Rita ? against NCAA I-AA opponents last year, the Thunderbirds will compete against a gamut of competition this season. SUU faced an NAIA opponent for the first time since 2000 in the opener when the Thunderbirds hosted Montana Tech and they meet a I-A opponent for the first time since 2003 (when they opened at Nevada) when they travel to Florida Atlantic, Oct. 12. SUU also faced an NCAA Division II squad, Western State, for the first time since 2004.
The Thunderbirds are slated to square off against four teams which are ranked among this week?s top-25 I-AA squads in the coming weeks, including three during Great West Football Conference play. The Thunderbirds opened their GWFC schedule last week at No. 5 Cal Poly, and now travel to McNeese State, which has been ranked all season until the loss to South Dakota State last week. Following a game at I-A Florida Atlantic, the Thunderbirds face No. 16 UC Davis ? again on the road, Oct. 21,? before returning home to host No. 11 North Dakota State, Oct. 28. SUU then hosts South Dakota State Nov. 11, before closing the regular-season at No. 9 Southern Illinois, Nov. 18. Texas State, a team the Thunderbirds played Nov. 23, opened the season ranked 18th and was in the top-25 the first two weeks of the season but has since fallen from the polls.
Articles for SUU - Thunderbirds
LAKE CHARLES, La., Oct. 7 ? Southern Utah had its best offensive night of the year Saturday but a handful of turnovers prevented the Thunderbirds from winning their third straight game at McNeese State as the Cowboys took advantage of five SUU turnovers to take a 30-27 win. SUU lost three fumbles and two interceptions ? with three of the miscues coming inside the McNeese 10-yard line and another coming inside its own 20– while MSU turned the ball over just once.
SUU fell behind 17-0 in the first half but cut the deficit to 17-14 at halftime tnaks to a 71-yard Johnny Sanchez run and a 7-yard TD pass from Wes Marshall to Joey Hew Len. McNeese State pushed its advantage to 24-14 on a 5-yard Derrick Fourroux run in the third perios, but Southern Utah struck back with a 6-yard pass from Marshall to Hew Len late in the third, then took their first lead of the game on a 28-yard Sanchez run with 9:15 to play.
The Cowboys struck right back, however, scoring on a 69-yard Fourrourx-to-Charlese Franklin pass to go up 30-27. Southern Utah took the ensuing kickoff and drove down the field, however, reaching the 7-yard line but a poor exchange from center resulted in a fumble and the Cowboys recovered, ending the threat.
?I cant? tell you how disappointed I am,? SUU Coach Wes Meier said. ?If we don?t turn the ball over five times we probably win this one going away. It?s hard to explain and I really am at a loss for anything to say right now. We played well enough to win on both sides of the ball but we turned it over way too much and we hurt ourselves with little penalties again.?
Southern Utah finished the game with 457 yards of offense while McNeese had 458. The Thunderbirds rushed for 280 yards, their most since the 2002 campaign. Sanchez had his second 100-yard rushing game of the season, finishing with 161 yards and the two scores on just 11 carries. Marshall completed 19-of-29 passes for 177 yards and two scores but was intercepted twice and lost two fumbles inside the MSU 10, including the bad exchange from center Matt Roan.
Jamie Leonard carried 16 times for 127 yards for the Cowboys, who finished with 264 yards on the ground, while Fourroux completed 11-of-25 passes for 194 yards.
Two first-quarter turnovers, a Kyle Coop fumble and an interception of a Wes Meier pass led to 14 straight McNeese State points. Southern Utah had driven inside the McNeese 20 yard line when Coop was stripped of the ball on the MSU 12 yard line. On their ensuing drive the Cowboys got a 50-yard run from Jamie Leonard to set up a one-yard Derrick Fourroux quarterback sneak for a touchdown. McNeese then got an interception on SUU?s next play and were able to cash in on a 12-yard Fourroux run on its first play from scrimmage.
Southern Utah answered by driving inside the McNeese 20 again, but once again the Thunderbirds turned the ball over as an apparently stopped Marshall was stripped of the ball on a rushing play on the five yard line.
After the Cowboys tacked on a 21-yard field goal Southern Utah finally got on the scoreboard when Johnny Sanchez ran 71 yards off tackle on a second-and-inches play to pull the Thunderbirds within 17-7.
Southern Utah then got an opportunistic score of its own, as the Cowboys turned the ball over on a fumble near midfield. The Thunderbirds responded with a 6-play, 52- yard drive which culminated in a 7-yard Marshall to Joey Hew Len touchdown pass to pull SUU within 17-14.
Articles for SUU - Thunderbirds
October 8, 2006
LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) – Derrick Fourroux scored three times on rushes and threw the game-winning pass in the fourth quarter to lead McNeese State to a 30-27 win over Southern Utah Saturday.
Fourroux got the Cowboys (2-3) on the scoreboard with two TD runs in the first quarter – one a 1-yard plunge, the other a 12-yard dash – and added another TD run with 4:42 left in the third quarter to give McNeese a 24-14 lead.
But Southern Utah (3-3) fought back after Fourroux's third-quarter TD run, scoring with :32 left in the third on Joey Hew Len's 6-yard catch and taking a 27-24 lead with 9:15 left in the game on Johnny Sanchez's 28-yard run.
But Fourroux responded a minute later with a 69-yard TD pass to Carlese Franklin to lift McNeese to the win. Fourroux rushed for 52 yards and finished 11-of-25 for 194 yards. Jamie Leonard led the McNeese running game with 124 yards on 16 rushes.
McNeese led at the halftime 17-14.
Southern Utah's Wes Marshall finished 19-of-28 for 177 yards, throwing two TD passes. Sanchez finished with 161 yards on 11 carries.
Both teams had PATs blocked.
Articles for SUU - Thunderbirds
SUU (3-3) is in the middle of a four-game road stretch and will be trying to break a two-game skid. The Thunderbirds have lost back-to-back games in which they were leading in the fourth quarter. Last week SUU came back from a 17-0 deficit at McNeese State to take a 27-24 fourth period lead but five total turnovers were too much to overcome as the team fell 30-27. The previous week four turnovers in the final period spelled doom as the Thunderbirds gave up a 14-3 fourth quarter advantage in an 18-14 loss at No. 4 (NCAA I-AA) Cal Poly.
Florida Atlantic (1-4) will be playing its first home game of the 2006 campaign Thursday. The Owls opened with five straight on the road and that road hasn?t been easy, as they traveled to two SEC and two Big 12 stadiums ? at No. 12 Clemson, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and South Carolina ? before breaking through in the win column Sept. 30 at Louisiana-Monroe, 21-19. FAU has been off since the ULM game.
SUU's Wes Meier (Utah, 1991) has a record of 10-17 six games into his third season as the Thunderbird head coach. Prior to taking the reigns of the SUU program in 2004, Meier served as the Thunderbirds? assistant head coach, special teams coordinator and defensive line coach in 2003, helping guide the team to a 4-7 record, the first step in rebuilding the team after back-to-back 2-9 and 1-10 seasons. Meier, who played defensive line at SUU in the mid-1980s, returned to the Thunderbirds after a long career in the Utah high school ranks. Meier is 1-0 vs. the Cowboys.
Florida Atlantic?s Howard Schnellenberger (Kentucky, 1956) is 29-34 in his sixth season as head coach of the Owls and 129-111-3 overall in his 21st year as a collegiate head coach. Schnellenberger has served as head coach of one professional team, the Baltimore Colts (1973-74), as well as four college teams: Miami (1979-84), Louisville (1985-94), Oklahoma (1995) and FAU. He is 0-0 vs. the Thunderbirds.
Affiliations: Southern Utah is in its third season in the Great West Football conference after eight seasons as an NCAA I-AA independent. SUU is affiliated with the Mid-Continent Conference in all its other sports except women's gymnastics, which competes in the Western Athletic Conference. Florida Atlantic is an NCAA I-A member of the Sun Belt Conference.
Great West Players of the Week:
SUU has had five players named Great West Football Conference Player of the week so far this season, three on the offensive and two on the defensive side of the ball.
Running back Johnny Sanchez has been named this week?s Great West Football Conference offensive Player of the Week.
Sanchez, a 5-9, 200-pound junior from Los Lunas, N.M., carried the ball 11 times for 161 yards and two touchdowns in Southern Utah?s 30-27 loss at McNeese State. His rushing total was the most by a Thunderbird since the 2002 season, and the team?s 280 rushing yards tied the output against Texas State, which was also the highest since 2002. Sanchez scored on runs of 71 and 28 yards, with his last scoring run giving the Thunderbirds a 27-24 lead in the fourth quarter.
Robert Takeno was named the Great West Football Conference Defensive Player of the Week after his performance in the Thunderbirds' near-upset of No. 5 Cal Poly (Sept. 30).
Takeno, a 5-foot-11, 210-pound redshirt freshman linebacker from Sandy, Utah (Hillcrest HS) had eight tackles, seven solo, recovered a fumble and scored a touchdown in the 18-14 SUU loss. His fumble recovery and subsequent 48-yard return led to the Thunderbirds? first touchdown of the day, which erased a 3-point deficit and gave SUU a 7-3 lead at halftime. In the second half he scooped up a blocked punt and ran 11 yards for a touchdown to give the Thunderbirds a 14-3 advantage.
SUU QB Wes Marshall, RB Kyle Coop and SS D.J. Senter have also been named Great West Football Conference Players of the Week so far this year. Marshall earned the award following the Thunderbirds? season-opening 34-0 win over Montana Tech while Coop garnered recognition following the 55-3 win over Western State.
Marshall, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound junior from Minersville, Utah (Beaver HS), completed 21-of-25 passes for a career-high 301 yards and three touchdowns and did not throw an interception nor take a sack in three quarters? work. He also rushed for 18 yards on four carries to account for 319 of the team?s 469 yards of offense.
Coop, a 5-11, 210-pound sophomore from St. George, Utah (Snow Canyon HS), carried the ball 12 times for 69 yards and a touchdown and caught four passes for 78 yards and another score in Southern Utah?s victory. Coop averaged 5.8 yards per carry and 19.2 yards per reception, and his 147 total yards accounted for over a third of the Thunderbirds' 416 offensive yards.
Senter, a 6-foot, 210-pound sophomore safety from Las Vegas, Nev. (Bishop Gorman HS) paced the Thunderbird defense with nine tackles, five solo (also a team-high) and broke up a pair of passes in the 31-20 SUU victory. He hit Texas State quarterback Bradley George in the end zone to force a fumble and safety late in the game and also forced a fumble with a monster hit on George late in the second quarter. Following that play SUU recovered the ball on the TSU 32 and scored six plays later to go up 21-7.
GWFC Is I-AA?s Toughest:
The Great West Football Conference is the top-ranked I-AA conference in the nation for the third straight week this week, according to USA Today?s Sagarin Rankings as well as in Gridiron Power Index.
According to Sagarin?s rankings, the GWFC is the 11th-toughest conference in the nation with a 63.01 ranking, just behind the Western Athletic Conference at 64.02 and ahead of the I-A Mid-American Conference, at 61.53. Sagarin?s rankings are updated on Wednesdays.
SUU Versus I-A and the Sun Belt:
This will be Southern Utah?s 11th game against an NCAA Division I-A opponent but its first in the last three seasons. All 12 contests have come on the road. The Thunderbirds are 1-10 against I-A foes and 1-3 against teams currently competing in the Sun Belt Conference. SUU?s only win over a I-A team came at Arkansas State, a 34-24 win back in 1997. Since that time the Thunderbirds have lost a re-match with the Indians (38-16 in 2002) as well as two decisions at Troy State (20-17 in 2001 and 40-15 in 2002).
SUU In The I-AA National Ranks:
After three games the Thunderbirds are ranked among I-AA?s top-50 in 13 team statistical categories ? including five top-25 rankings ? and have three players ranked among the individual top-50 in five categories.
Individuals: QB Wes Marshall 29th in passer efficiency with a 136.18 rating this week and he is 20th in total offense with 224.5 yards per game. Larue Burley is 8th in kickoff returns at 28.2 ypr and is 16th in punt returns with a 13.71 ypr average. The final Thunderbird to be ranked in the top-50 is RB Johnny Sanchez, who cracked the top-50 in rushing yards per game at No. 50 this week with an 80.3 ypg average.
No Thunderbirds are ranked among the top-50 on the defensive side of the ball this week, although Levi Erickson is close, tied for 63rd in sacks with an average of 0.50 per game.
Team: Team-wise, SUU is eighth in kickoff returns with a 25.5 ypr average, is 18th in scoring defense (16.0 ppg), 21st in total offense (376.5 ypg), and 24th in punt returns (13.18 ypr) and scoring offense (28.83 ppg). In addition, the Thunderbirds are 28th in pass defense (156.3 ypg), 29th in rushing offense (188.5 ypg), 30th in total defense (288.5 ypg) and 33rd in pass efficiency defense (114.49 rating). The Thunderbirds also rank 36th in passing efficiency (offensive rating of 132.9), 44th in sacks (1.8 spg) and 45th in sacks allowed (1.5 sapg) and 46th in rushing defense (132.2 ypg).
Another Hot Start:
Last year WR Joey Hew Len caught 3 passes for 107 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the season-opener at Idaho State. Hew Len had another fast start to this season as the senior from Sacramento, Calif., pulled in seven balls for a career-high 120 yards and a TD vs. Montana Tech. His biggest catch was undoubtedly a 68-yarder on third and 10 from the SUU 1-yard line.
Since that game Hew Len has been the team?s go-to receiver, as he leads the squad with 27 receptions for 328 yards and seven touchdowns.
Hew Len caught just three balls vs. Western State, for 37 yards, but two of them went for touchdowns. Although Weber State bottled him up fairly well ? limiting him to 22 yards on four catches ? he bounced back against Texas State, catching six passes for 85 yards and two touchdowns against the Bobcats. He was the team?s leading receiver again at Cal Poly, with four receptions for 38 yards, and although he was second on the team in receptions (three) and receiving yards (26) at McNeese State, two of his catches went for touchdowns.
Articles for SUU - Thunderbirds
Florida Atlantic hasn?t dodged anyone this year. Outside of the Thunderbirds the Owls non-conference schedule has included games at No. 15 Clemson, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and South Carolina. FAU won the game that really counts too, getting off to a 1-0 start in conference play with the 21-19 win at Louisiana-Monroe.
The Owls have 184 rushing attempts for 444 net yards and have attempted 140 passes for 813 yards, respective averages of 88.8 and 162.6 yards per game. At ULM Florida Atlantic picked up 151 yards on the ground and 185 through the air but attempted just 19 passes (completing 13) while running the ball 38 times. A pair of quarterbacks, Sean Clayton and Rusty Smith, have seen significant duty this year. Clayton (6-5, 225, Jr) saw the majority of action against ULM and leads the team in passing with a 101.11 efficiency rating after completing 41-of-83 passes for 480 yards and two TDs with two interceptions. Smith (6-5, 21, RSFr) has completed 26-of-55 passes for 296 yards and no TDs with three interceptions for an efficiency rating of 81.57. WR Frantz Simeon (5-10, 185, So) is the team?s leading receiver, with 12 catches for 163 yards, while TE Jason Harmon (6-3, 184, So) has nine receptions for 71 yards and a touchdown. Charles Pierre (5-9, 185, So) has been the team?s top ground-gainer, with 67 carries for 209 yards and a score, while Clayton has carried 29 times for 112 yards and true freshman Willie Floyd (5-9, 165) has 30 rushing attempts for 101 yards.
Defensively, FAU has given up an average of 197.6 yards per game on the ground and 212.2 through the air, including 122 rushing and 285 passing yards in the last game. DB Kris Bartles (5-10, 200, Jr) and LB Cergile Sincere (69-0, 215, Jr) lead the team with 32 and 31 tackles, respectively. Bartles has a team-high 24 solo tackles as well while Sincere is tied for the team sacks lead with two and also has one of the squad?s four interceptions. DE Josh Pinnick (6-5, 240, Jr) leads the team in tackles for loss with five, and is the other co-leader in sacks with two. Linemen Randy Hunter (6-3, 260, So) and Josh Jenkins (6-3, 210, Sr) each have three tackles for loss as well and DB Corey Small (5-10, 170, So) has a team-high four passes broken up.
Wes Meier On Florida Atlantic:
?They?re similar to McNeese State in the things that they run but they are bigger, faster and stronger. They?re a legitimate Division I team that has played a brutal schedule so far and I?m sure they?ll be well prepared for us. They?ve played a very tough schedule so far, with games against Clemson, South Carolina, Kansas State and Oklahoma State and this is the first time they?ll be playing at home. We?re taking another step up in competition level this week.?
Articles for SUU - Thunderbirds
Articles for SUU - Thunderbirds
Articles for SUU - Thunderbirds
Article published Oct 8, 2006
T-Birds come up just short
By BEAU EASTES
None of the numbers matter but one.
Southern Utah racked up 20 first downs, rushed for 280 yards and controlled the clock for more than 42 minutes Saturday against McNeese State.
But five turnovers, three of which came inside the Cowboys' 10-yard line, sealed the Thunderbirds' fate in Lake Charles, La., as SUU fell to McNeese State 30-27 in nonconference action at Cowboy Stadium.
"We put ourselves in a position to win, but turnovers killed us," T-Bird coach Wes Meier told radio station Power 91.1 FM after the game. "We need to get these wins."
SUU (3-3) fell behind 17-0 early in the game before taking the lead 27-24 with 9:15 left in the fourth quarter after running back Johnny Sanchez scored from 27 yards out.
"Johnny did a good job," said Meier, whose team turns around and plays Division I-A Florida Atlantic on Thursday. "He's starting to show us some things."
The lead was short-lived though, as the Cowboys (2-3) scored on a 69-yard touchdown reception less than a minute later to go up 30-27.
"We never felt like we were out of it," said Meier, whose offense only punted twice against McNeese State. "Unfortunately for us we came up on the short end."
Sanchez highlighted a T-Bird offense that totaled more than 450 yards. The junior from Glendale (Ariz.) Community College had two touchdowns and 161 yards on 11 carries to lead SUU's ground game. Quarterback Wes Marshall threw for 177 yards and two touchdowns on 19-of-28 passing but again struggled with turnovers. The T-Birds' junior signal caller threw two interceptions and had one fumble.
"The one thing we didn't need to have was turnovers," Meier said. "And we had them."
Senior receiver Joey Hew Len caught three balls for 26 yards, including his sixth and seventh touchdown receptions of the year.
Quarterback Derrick Fourroux led the Cowboys with 194 yards passing.
"McNeese played a great game," Meier said about the Cowboys, who scored their first 17 points off SUU turnovers. "With all the turmoil and controversy with their head coaching situation they came out and played really well."
McNeese State coach Tommy Tate was fired on Tuesday and replaced him with offensive coordinator Matt Viator.
McNeese scored first, driving 73 yards after the T-Birds' first turnover, a Kyle Coop fumble on the SUU 9-yard line. Fourroux put the Cowboys up 7-0 with 5:13 left in the first quarter.
Just 50 seconds later, McNeese struck again after picking Marshall off on his own 12-yard line. Fourroux again kept the ball for the Cowboys, giving McNeese a two-touchdown lead before the end of the first quarter.
SUU made things interesting before the half, scoring twice after a Cowboy field goal gave the Thunderbirds a 17-0 lead. Sanchez struck first for the T-Birds, busting a 71-yard touchdown run with 8:21 left in the second quarter.
Almost six minutes later Marshall hit Hew Len for his 12th touchdown pass of the year, rallying SUU within 17-14 before the half.
Articles for SUU - Thunderbirds
Turnovers cost 'Birds 30-27 game at McNeese
Costly turnovers and timely penalties were the key factor as the Southern Utah football team dropped a close game to McNeese State 30-27 Saturday night in Lake Charles, La.
The T-Birds turned the ball over five times, three of which came inside the McNeese State 10-yard line, and were penalized twelve times for 76 yards as they dropped to 3-3 on the season.
SUU coach Wes Meier said in a postgame interview with Art Challis, broadcasted by Power 91, the turnovers were clearly the difference in the game.
"The turnovers just killed us," he said. "The one thing we needed to make sure we didn't have was the turnovers, and sure enough, we had 'em."
The McNeese State victory was coach Matt Viator's first win as the Cowboys' head coach. Viator was hired Wednesday when former coach Tommy Tate resigned.
The Cowboys jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first half before the T-Birds fought back to make it 17-7, when junior running back Johnny Sanchez took a 71-yard run into the end zone in the second quarter. With two minutes to go in the first half, junior quarterback Wes Marshall connected on a 7-yard touchdown pass with senior wide receiver Joey Hew Len to cut the Cowboy lead to three.
The T-Birds missed out on early scoring opportunities on account of losing two first-quarter fumbles in the red zone. Marshall was also intercepted in the first quarter inside the SUU 20-yard line, setting up a Derrick Fourroux touchdown run two plays later.
Marshall was intercepted again on the T-Birds' first drive of the second quarter, giving the team its fourth turnover in 18 minutes of game play.
SUU took its only lead of the game in the fourth quarter when Sanchez scored on a run from 28 yards out to give the T-Birds a 27-24 lead. The lead didn't last long, however, because Fourroux completed a 69-yard touchdown pass to Carlese Franklin to give the Cowboys a 30-27 lead, which was the eventual final score.
The T-Birds had another chance to score late in the fourth quarter, but Marshall lost a fumble at the McNeese State 8-yard line, essentially sealing the victory for the Cowboys.
McNeese State was in a fourth-down situation with just a few minutes remaining, and SUU appeared to have another shot, but the T-Birds were called for a penalty because the team broke its defensive huddle with 12 men on the field.
Meier said the loss was a tough one to deal with.
"I feel terrible about it, I feel terrible for these guys. They played extremely hard against a very good team," he said. "I almost feel exactly like I did after the Cal Poly game."
SUU finished the game with 457 total yards, 280 of which came on the ground. Sanchez led the offensive attack for the T-Birds, rushing for 161 yards and two touchdowns on just 11 carries.
Marshall completed 19 of 28 passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns, but threw two interceptions. He also ran for 65 yards on 13 carries.
Hew Len caught three passes for 26 yards and two touchdowns.
Junior Derrick Brown and T.J. Tabatabai led the SUU defense with seven tackles apiece. Senior Levi Erickson and sophomore Austin Curtis tallied six tackles each for the 'Birds.
The T-Birds will look to bounce back from the loss Thursday when they face Florida Atlantic in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.