by Zachary Maag
The Southern Utah University Thunderbirds did not fare well in their opening games this season. In Week 0, they suffered a blowout loss to San Jose State by a score of 45-14. SUU did not perform any better the next week in another big loss to Arizona State by a score of 41-14.
SJSU vs SUU
SUU knew that their first game of the season was not going to be a walk in the park against the defending Mountain West Champions, but they certainly did not expect the SJSU offense to explode as they did in the first quarter. In their first drive of the new season, the Spartans scored on a quarterback dive by Nick Starkel. The Thunderbird did very well at driving down the field on their first possession, but missed a 39-yard field goal attempt. The Spartans continued to pounce and scored two more touchdowns to finish the first quarter while the Thunderbirds stalled on offense.
SUU finally put points on the board early in the second quarter after a muffed punt by the Spartans. SUU competed the “Philly Special” which saw Justin Miller catch an 8 yard touchdown pass from wide receiver Judd Cockett. This made the score 21-7. Soon after, the Spartans completed two deep passes for touchdowns. The Thunderbirds were at a stand-still on offense, but late in the second quarter the defense picked it up and intercepted a pass. They took it back for a touchdown. The Spartans finished the first half with a 41yd field goal. That made the score 38-14.
The second half was not as entertaining as the first. SUU could not move the ball on offense. The Spartans could only put up seven points in the entire second half, and it came early in the second quarter off a 14-yard pass from Nick Starkel. This saw the game end 45-14 in San Jose State’s favor.
Justin Miller finished the game passing 15/29 with 117 yards but no passing touchdowns. He did end up with one receiving touchdown off of a trick play. Seven different Thunderbirds ran the ball and ended up with a total of 129 rushing yards. On the defensive side, Kobe Singleton had one interception that was returned for a touchdown.
Arizona State vs SUU
After a tough loss in their first game of the season, the Thunderbirds tried to bounce back against the 25th ranked Arizona State Sun Devils. In the first drive for the Thunderbirds, quarterback Justin Miller was pressured on third down and threw a pick that was nearly returned for a touchdown. The Sun Devils scored just three plays later. After an SUU fumble, ASU scored another touchdown off of a 26-yard run on fourth and one. On the next drive, SUU put points on the board with an eight yardtouchdown run from Judd Cockett. This made the score 13-7 at the end of the first quarter.
SUU allowed ASU to score two more times in the second quarter: one from Rachaad White, and another from Deamonte Trayanum. This made the score at halftime 28-7 in favor of ASU.
On their first drive of the second half, the Sun Devils scored another touchdown off a huge run from Ricky Pearsall. After some back and forth for about 10 minutes, the Thunderbirds finally made something happen by scoring a touchdown off a 21-yard run from David Moore lll. The Thunderbirds would not score the rest of the game. ASU would get one more touchdown in the fourth quarter to end the game with a final score of 41-14.
Justin Miller finished the game throwing 19/30 with 146 passing yards and 3 interceptions. Dayne Christiansen was the main ball carrier with 10 rushes for 40 yards. On the defensive end, La’akea Kaho’ohanohano finished the game with an impressive 15 total tackles, including a sack.
After starting the season 0-2 against challenging FBS opponents, the Thunderbirds will try to bounce back in their next game against Tarleton State University on the road. That game will be on September 18, 2021, at 5 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.
Featured image courtesy of Kevin Abele, Sportswire