(STATS) – Southern Utah has been an outstanding team hidden in plain sight this season, but it shouldn’t be overlooked anymore.
The unranked Big Sky team has beaten three Top 25 opponents, the latest a 46-28 victory over No. 8 Eastern Washington on Saturday night in Cedar City. That’s why it’s the STATS FCS Team of the Week.
“Obviously this is a huge win for our program,” second-year coach Demario Warren said. “Our guys just battled.”
Southern Utah earned a Top 25 win against Northern Iowa last month and another one versus Weber State on Oct. 14. The Thunderbirds (5-2, 3-1) made it two straight over an unbeaten Big Sky team by outscoring Eastern Washington 31-7 in the second half.
The Thunderbirds, who often go overlooked as a relatively new program (2012) in the largest FCS conference, have a 12-1 record at home since the start of the 2015 season. They frustrated Eastern Washington’s potent offense by forcing four turnovers, including three interceptions of All-America quarterback Gage Gubrud, and held the ball for 36 minutes, 42 seconds with a strong run-pass mix.
Quarterback Patrick Tyler totaled 232 yards of total offense and threw three touchdown passes, and James Felila carried the ball 27 times for 143 yards and two TDs.
The Thunderbirds went ahead for good on Tyler’s 26-yard touchdown pass to Logan Parker with 7:39 left to make it 32-28. Following Jalen Russell’s interception of Gubrud deep in Eastern Washington territory, Landen Meason caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from Tyler – his second of the game.
“It puts a goal right in front of us now,” Warren said. “Our first goal is to have a winning season. We’ve never had three winning seasons in a row, so now it puts that right there for us.”