Southern Utah Takes Arizona State to Brink in Opener
How about those T-Birds. Coach Fitzgerald had the boys ready to play last night. Here is the press release from the SUU Athletic Communications department (Full Article)
By Regan Hunsaker, Assistant SID
CEDAR CITY, UT - In the highly anticipated season opener for the Southern Utah Thunderbirds, fans were treated to a thrilling contest that saw the T-Birds fall just shy of history with a final score of 24-21 in favor of Arizona State. The game featured exciting plays, key turnovers, and impressive performances on both sides of the ball for Southern Utah.
Coach DeLane Fitzgerald Said
"We are playing grown man football and there are no moral victories… We played nine percent of our schedule tonight nothing more nothing less…We have to use tonight as a building block for our team and we like our team."
"We didn't do enough to win the football game tonight, but we like our team and we like where we stand with 10 games to play."
"Our game plan offensively and defensively was really good tonight and it showed… We are a small mistake here and there from coming out of here with a win, but we don't lack heart on the team or coaching staff"
First Quarter: ASU Takes an Early Lead (7-0)
The Sun Devils wasted no time getting on the board, with Cam Skattebo rushing for a 6-yard touchdown with 9 minutes left in the first quarter. ASU drove 68 yards in just under 2 minutes to take a 7-0 lead.
Second Quarter: Thunderbirds Strike Back (7-7), But ASU Responds (21-7)
Southern Utah responded in the second quarter when Targhee Lambson rushed for a 1-yard touchdown, capping off an 11-play, 62-yard drive. The game was tied at 7-7. The touchdown marked the first points of the season for SUU and Lambson's first score in a Thunderbird uniform.
The Sun Devils quickly regained their lead with two impressive touchdown passes from Jaden Rashada. The first was a 47-yard connection to Xavier Guillory in a fourth down and eight situation. The second was a 3-yard pass to Troy Omeire. ASU entered halftime with a 21-7 advantage.
Bad Weather Break
Just as the Thunderbirds were preparing to return for the second half, Officials delayed the game due to lightning in the area. The delay would turn halftime into a two-and-a-half-hour break while lightning flashed all around the stadium.
Third Quarter: Thunderbirds Cut the Deficit (21-14)
When Play was finally resumed in the third quarter, The Thunderbirds immediately made a big defensive stop and forced the Sun Devils to punt. Southern Utah's Justin Miller then connected with Isaiah Wooden for a huge 52-yard play to set up Zach Mitchell for a 17-yard touchdown pass. The score closed the gap to 21-14.
Fourth Quarter: ASU Secures Victory (24-21)
Arizona State's defense held strong in the final quarter, preventing Southern Utah from mounting a comeback. Dario Longhetto added a 38-yard field goal to extend ASU's lead to 24-14. However, the Thunderbirds weren't done yet.
With 7 minutes and 50 seconds remaining, Jordan Washington broke through on an ASU punt blocking the kick. The ball was then collected by George Ramirez who returned it 47 yards for a touchdown. With the score at 21-24, Southern Utah had a chance to tie or take the lead, but ASU's defense held firm for the win.
Individual Standouts Shine for Thunderbirds in Tight Tilt
In the closely contested football game between Southern Utah and Arizona State, individual performances played a crucial role in keeping the Thunderbirds in the game until the very end. Despite falling short, several Thunderbird players showcased their impressive skill on the field.
Justin Miller had a solid performance, completing 8 of 17 passes for 123 yards and throwing one touchdown. His completion percentage was 47%, and he had a passer rating of 127.2.
Zach Mitchell was one of the standout performers for the Thunderbirds. He caught 4 passes for 52 yards, including a crucial 17-yard touchdown reception. Mitchell demonstrated his reliability as a target, with a catch rate of 67%.
Isaiah Wooden made a significant contribution with 52 receiving yards on a single reception, showcasing his big-play ability. Despite not scoring a touchdown, his 52-yard catch was a highlight for the Thunderbirds.
Braedon Wissler was the force behind the Thunderbirds' ground game, rushing for 45 yards on 15 attempts. Wissler had the long run of the game, an impressive 21-yard dash early in the third quarter. Targhee Lambson added 23 yards on 7 attempts. He found the endzone in the first quarter for the first rushing touchdown of the 2023 season.
George Ramirez was named the player of the game for his efforts on defense. Ramirez totaled seven tackles and two pass break-ups. Ramirez had a game-changing moment with a 47-yard punt return for a touchdown, bringing the Thunderbirds within striking distance in the fourth quarter.
Alyas Vigil had a strong debut performance as the new punter for the T-Birds, averaging 42.4 yards per punt and pinning ASU inside their 20-yard line three times.
The Thunderbird will travel north to square off with in-state foe BYU on September 9th. That game will kick off at 1:00 p.m. MT and will be televised by BYUtv.
Single Game Tickets
Single-game tickets for the 2023 season are now available. Get over to tbirdtickets.com to get your seats for this year's home games!