By Tom Zulewski
Iron County Today
CEDAR CITY–Two years ago, the Southern Utah football team had a “turning point” moment when it won its first Big Sky football title by beating the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks.
On Saturday afternoon before the biggest crowd in program history, the T-Birds met their season-long expectation, ran around, over and through the Lumberjacks, and celebrated with another championship trophy on the Eccles Coliseum turf.
Jay Green ran for three touchdowns and senior quarterback Patrick Tyler added two more scores as Southern Utah blew the game open in the second quarter and beat Northern Arizona 48-20 on Nov. 18 before 10,842 Senior Day fans. The No. 14 T-Birds won a second Big Sky crown in three years, finishing tied with Weber State at 7-1 in conference and 9-2 overall.
“It’s a great feeling, especially with all the seniors we have,” said Green, who finished with 134 yards on 25 carries. “I was savoring it the whole time. It’s just a great feeling.”
With the game tied at 6-6 early in the second quarter, the T-Birds used special teams to swing the momentum firmly in their favor. After Logan Baker recovered a Khalil Dorsey fumble off a kickoff at the NAU 15-yard line, Tyler scored his first touchdown on a 1-yard run.
Even when a 15-yard personal foul forced SUU to kick off from its own 20, the squib kick took a fortuitous bounce off the facemask of Tristan Vance and Kyle Taulili recovered at the T-Bird 36. Three plays later, Tyler had an easy run to the end zone from 23 yards out and the rout was officially on.
“We fought all year to get to this point,” SUU head coach Demario Warren said. “We didn’t flinch on defense and came right back and scored on offense.”
The two scores came 53 seconds apart. Green would score again on a 3-yard run with 5 minutes, 22 seconds left in the first half, and the T-Birds took a 27-13 lead to the locker room at the break.
“The guys had a look in their eyes that they wanted to win this game not only for the team and the program, but for the city and the university,” Warren said. “It was a special thing to be a part of.”
The crowd knew the day would belong to the T-Birds when punter Rashaan Miller ran for 22 yards and a first down on a fake punt. From there, SUU would march 77 yards in nine plays. When Green scored on a 1-yard run, the T-Birds had a 33-13 lead with 6:34 left in the third, and the countdown to another championship was on.
For the game, Tyler finished 20-of-30 for 238 yards passing with one interception. The T-Birds added 204 rushing yards and beat the Lumberjacks for the fourth straight time. NAU finished in a three-way tie for third in the Big Sky at 6-2 with Sacramento State and Eastern Washington.
Despite the loss, Northern Arizona advanced to the FCS playoffs as an at-large team and will host San Diego on Saturday at 6 p.m. in a first-round matchup.
SOUTHERN UTAH 48, NORTHERN ARIZONA 20
- Arizona 6 7 0 7 — 20
- Utah 3 24 14 7 — 48
SUU – FG Berz 21, 7:16
NAU – FG Roehler 27, 4:53
NAU – FG Roehler 46, 1:13
SUU – FG Berz 41, 13:48
SUU – Tyler 1 run (Berz kick), 11:59
SUU – Tyler 23 run (Berz kick), 11:06
SUU – Green 3 run (Berz kick), 5:22
NAU – Young 1 run (Roehler kick), :48
SUU – Green 1 run (kick blocked), 6:34
SUU – Diego-Williams 4 run (Chambers pass from Tyler), 1:17
SUU – Green 10 run (Berz kick), 10:32
NAU – Kempton 2 pass from Cookus (Roehler kick), 6:41
RUSHING: N. Arizona – Young 14-99, Stinson 5-19, Cookus 5-16; Smartt 1-0; Logan 1-0. S. Utah – Green 25-134; Newkirk 8-35; Tyler 10-31; Miller 1-22; Dillard 1-4; Cockett 1-0; Diego-Williams 2-minus-17.
PASSING: N. Arizona – Cookus 23-44-0-246. S. Utah – Tyler 20-30-1-238.
RECEIVING: N. Arizona – Marks 5-86; Burton 5-30; Brown 4-61; Brewington 3-20; Stinson 2-6; Young 1-31; Stokes 1-10; Kempton 1-2; Shank 1-0. S. Utah – Measom 8-68; Parker 4-34; Diego-Williams 2-54; Green 2-37; Croyle 2-10; Rutledge 1-30; Colson 1-5.
Big Sky standings
x-Southern Utah 7-1 9-2
Weber State 7-1 9-2
Eastern Washington 6-2 7-4
Northern Arizona 6-2 7-4
Sacramento State 6-2 7-4
Montana 5-3 7-4
Montana State 5-3 5-6
UC Davis 3-5 5-6
Idaho State 2-6 4-7
Northern Colorado 2-6 3-7
North Dakota 2-6 3-8
Cal Poly 1-7 1-10
Portland State 0-8 0-11
x-clinched automatic berth to FCS playoffs
Nov. 18 scores
Southern Utah 48, Northern Arizona 20
Northern Colorado 42, Cal Poly 0
Montana State 31, Montana 23
Weber State 35, Idaho State 7
Sacramento State 52, UC Davis 47
Eastern Washington 59, Portland State 33
Saturday’s games (Big Sky schools)
Western Illinois (8-3) at Weber State (9-2), 2 p.m.
San Diego (9-2) at Northern Arizona (7-4), 6 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 2
Western Illinois-Weber State winner at Southern Utah (9-2), 6 p.m.