Southern Utah’s defense was dominant, getting seven total turnovers and limiting the Skyhawks to 214 yards of offense, and just 48 on the ground.
“I think the [defensive] effort was fantastic,” SUU Coach Ed Lamb said. “Most of those turnovers were caused by good, hard solid tackles, face-up tackles, face on the football. Guys were wrapping bringing their arms hard and they had five fumbles and lost them all, which means our guys were running hard to the ball.”
Meanwhile, the Thunderbird offense didn’t turn the ball over and made the most of the opportunities it was given, scoring on all but one possession in the first half and on its first of the second before turning the offense over to the reserves.
Quarterback Aaron Cantu completed 15-of-16 passes for 136 yards and four touchdowns and after Mike Sharp took over at QB in the second half he wound up leading the team in rushing, with 67 yards on 10 carries.
“Aaron was super-sharp, he was razor sharp on his throws tonight,” Lamb said . “You’ve got to credit the plan, the offensive plan, which Aaron has a big part in. He’s vocal, he works hard on it and the coaches put together a plan that allowed him to get some balls out quickly and successfully.”
“Mike was super, he can throw the ball as well,” Lamb added. “He’s got a super-strong arm but at that point in the game we really didn’t feel that throwing the ball was appropriate with the score out of hand as it was.”
It wasn’t a turnover that led to the Thundebrirds first score, but it was a Skyhawk miscue. After a poor snap led to a short punt, SUU took over at the FLC 38 and capitalized for the first score of the game, getting into the end zone on a 4-yard pass from Cantu to Toa Afatasi. It was Afatasi’s first collegiate TD.
On FLC’s ensuing possession Austin Anderson forced an Amery Duncan fumble at the Skyhawk 28 yard line. Matt Holley scooped up the bouncing ball at the 18 and ran it in for a touchdown, his first, and a 14-0 SUU lead.
“The biggest highlight reel-type hit was probably Austin Anderson had a hit in the backfield right after the handoff was given and those usually look pretty good,”” Lamb noted.
The Skyhawks then drove to SUU 14 yard line but Chad Hansen forced a Dewaun Wesley fumble and Miles Killebrew picked that one up at the 11 and returned it 89 yards as time expired in the first period, giving the Thunderbirds a 21-0 lead.
On FLC’s ensuing drive Holley sacked Skyhawk QB Jordan Doyle at the SUU 27 yard line, where defensive tackle Toi Taufa picked up the ball and rambled to the FLC 33 yard line, setting up an 8-yard Cantu-to-Anthony Norris TD pass.
Wesley fumbled on the first play of Fort Lewis’ next drive when he didn’t get a clean handoff from Doyle and the Thunderbirds were again able to capitalize, this time on a 19-yard pass from Cantu to Norris.
Tommy Collet Jr. intercepted a pass on the Skyhawks’ next drive – giving him picks in three straight games – and again SUU was able to capitalize, driving 38 yards for another touchdown, this time on a 6-yard pass from Cantu to Easton Pedersen.
The only time SUU failed to score after an FLC turnover was late in the quarter after Myles Carelock intercepted a pass at the SUU 44 yard line. SUU wound up attempting a 51-yard field goal the Colton Cook pulled left as time expired.
Malik Brown scored his first collegiate touchdown on a 5-yard run in the third period after a miscue on a Thunderbird punt – a short punt hit a Skyhawk up-man and was recovered by SUU – set the ‘Birds up at the FLC 27 yard line. Brown’s TD staked the Thunderbirds to a 49-0 lead.