[Vandal] 4 Things To Know About Southern Utah

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Fri Nov 5 08:12:04 PDT 2021


>From The Lewiston TribuneLewiston, IdahoFriday, November 5, 2021
4 Things To Know About Southern Utah
Lowly Thunderbirds shouldn’t be underestimated
By Stephan Wiebe
The Southern Utah Thunderbirds haven’t won a football game on the road or in conference play this season heading into their matchup against Idaho.
But records don’t tell the whole story.
Here are four things to know about the Thunderbirds (1-8, 0-6 Big Sky) before they take on the Vandals (2-6, 1-4) at 1 p.m. Saturday (ESPN+) at the Kibbie Dome:
Better Than The Record?
Montana Grizzlies fans received a major scare last week. It took an interception return for a touchdown and a blocked field goal for No. 11 UM to defeat SUU 20-19.
Montana’s Marcus Welnel got a mitt on Noah Alejado’s 36-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter to preserve the win for the Griz.
It’s another outcome that goes to show how nothing is guaranteed in the Big Sky on any given week.“Montana had a pick-six, otherwise they only scored 13 points on offense,” Idaho coach Paul Petrino said. “And then Montana blocked a field goal to beat them. (SUU) did some good things there.”
SUU’s Defense Is Sneaky Good At Times
Against the Griz, SUU’s defense forced a pair of fumbles, snagged an interception, broke up five passes and had five tackles for loss.
The Thunderbirds have a surprisingly solid defense when compared to their record.
“They’ve lost a couple games 20-19, 17-9 (to Northern Colorado) and 20-13 (to Portland State), so they’ve done some good things defensively,” Petrino said, “so I think that stands out.”
Most notable for the T-birds’ defense is cornerback Kobe Singleton, who is tied for third in the conference with three interceptions. The freshman from Pasco, Wash., also has six pass breakups.
But for every close game, there was another where SUU was blown out. Northern Arizona and No. 7 Eastern Washington each scored more than 50 on the Big Sky’s cellar dweller.
SUU allows a league-worst 468.0 yards per game. That’s worse than Idaho’s 449 — a number inflated by allowing 837 yards to the Eagles in an Oct. 16 loss.
Spring Game An Instant Classic
The last meeting between Idaho and SUU turned out to be one for the ages.
Down to its third-string quarterback, Idaho rallied to defeat the T-birds 33-32 on March 27.
Idaho’s savior in that one was perennial backup quarterback Nikhil Nayar, who came in for injured CJ Jordan — also a backup at the time — in the third quarter and piloted the Vandals to a pair of scoring drives.
The final drive went 82 yards in 2:04 and was capped by a Nayar touchdown pass to Cutrell Haywood with just seven seconds left in the game — a storybook ending for the Vandals.
“As a backup, all you gotta do is visualize coming in to help the team win, so that’s a lot of what I did,” Nayar recalled earlier this season. “I was able to practice the week before Southern Utah and then when my number was finally called, I knew I was going to be able to perform at the highest level.”
SUU Features A Balanced Offense
The T-birds average fewer than 230 yards passing and less than 100 yards rushing per game — numbers that signal the team has struggled to find its offensive groove in either category.
SUU has used a rotation at running back with none of their top four rushers averaging more than 31 yards per contest.
Sophomore quarterback Justin Miller owns a modest 228.9 yards per game passing with eight touchdowns to 10 interceptions on the season.
SUU’s biggest threat might be speedy slot receiver Ethan Bolingbroke and his 51 catches for 491 yards.
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