CEDAR CITY — Southern Utah's football team had more rushing yards than passing yards for the first time in more than two years in a 34-3 Great West Conference win over UC Davis on Saturday.
With the win, SUU improved to 5-4 on the season and 1-3 in the GWC. It was the Thunderbirds' final home game of 2011 as well as its final Great West contest, as they are slated to move to the Big Sky next year.
The Thunderbirds ran for a season-high 251 yards, their most since 2007, and passed for 238 yards. It was the first time SUU's rushing total outperformed its passing yardage since the T-birds ran for 244 yards and threw for 189 in a 36-7 win over Dixie State in their 2009 season-opener.
SUU put together two long scoring drives which culminated in touchdowns on its first two possessions of the day to take control early.
After taking the opening kickoff, the Thunderbirds drove 80 yards in seven plays, with Henna Brown carrying three times for 38 yards before Brad Sorensen hit Austin Minefee on a screen pass for a 3-yard touchdown.
SUU then kept UC Davis from getting a first down on its first possession, and after a punt, the Thunderbirds drove 81 yards in 10 plays, getting into the end zone on an 11-yard run by Brown.
From that point, the Aggies' defense stiffened, however, limiting SUU to three field goal attempts through the rest of the half. One was wide right and another was partially blocked, but Colton Cook hit the third attempt, from 45 yards out, to give the Thunderbirds a 17-0 halftime lead.
SUU's defense held UC Davis to 99 yards of total offense in the first half while the Thunderbirds racked up 280 yards, including 97 on the ground and 183 through the air.
Southern Utah added a 24-yard field goal by Cook with 9:24 to go in the third period. The kick was set up by a 77-yard run by Minefee, who carried the ball from his own one-yard line to the UC Davis 22 on the play. SUU added a touchdown on a 3-yard run by Brown late in the third period, then went up 34-0 on Minefee's two-yard TD run with 12:30 to go in the fourth.
UC Davis finally got on the scoreboard when Sean Kelley nailed a 54-yard field goal with 7:49 to go in the game.
SUU's defense held UC Davis to 193 total yards and allowed the Aggies into Thunderbird territory just twice, once at the end of the first half when the Aggies got to the SUU 45 on the final play of the half, and again when the drive ended with the field goal for their only points of the day.
Chad Hansen led the SUU defense with eight tackles, including a sack and two tackles for loss.
Minefee finished with a season-high 131 rushing yards, while Brown had a career-best 82. Sorensen completed 23-of-34 passes for 238 yards.
Aggie quarterback Randy Wright completed 14-of-23 passes for 150 yards but was sacked three times. UC Davis finished with 43 rushing yards, the fewest by an SUU opponent this season.