OGDEN — Seventy-four seconds. That was how long it took the Southern Utah Thunderbirds to feel at home in Weber State’s Stewart Stadium Saturday night. On just the second play from scrimmage, SUU quarterback Patrick Tyler hooked up with junior tight end Logan Parker for a 78-yard touchdown.
That score proved a mere precursor to what was to come for the T-Birds who, save for a few momentary bright spots for the Wildcats, most notably a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by receiver Rashid Shaheed, controlled the contest en route to a 32-16 victory.
“Tonight is easy. We didn’t play very good,” said Weber State head coach Jay Hill. “You have to give Southern Utah a ton of credit. I thought they played very good tonight. They were physical and did a great job on defense.”
Tyler racked up 281 yards passing and three touchdowns to lead the T-Birds attack, connecting with Parker six times for 118 yards and two scores.
Tyler and Parker weren’t the only T-Birds to shine, however, as defensive end Chance Beason and defensive back Jalen Russell each recorded an interception (Beason took his pick 13 yards into the end zone for six points). Linebackers Chined Ahanonu and Mike Needham were excellent as well, racking up 13 and 11 tackles respectively.
Add in the production of running backs Jay Green, James Felila and Terran Beasley, who combined for 170 yards on the ground, and it’s safe to say it was breakout performance for SUU.
The win marked the fourth straight victory in Ogden for the T-Birds — sweet revenge after falling short to the Wildcats in devastating fashion last season.
As for Weber State, it was a rough game almost from start to finish.
After scoring back-to-back field goals on drives of 48 and 52 yards, the Wildcats trailed by just one point, 7-6. Unfortunately, on that second drive, starting quarterback Stefan Cantwell was knocked out of the contest. He went through concussion protocol and did not return.
His replacement, former Fremont High standout Justin Shaw, subsequently had an evening to forget. Shaw completed just four of his 12 passing attempts while throwing two interceptions.
“He didn’t handle that situation very good,” said Hill. “I don’t know if it was because he threw the pick-six. I don’t know if that played a factor in his mind, but he looked a little starry eyed after that.”
It got so bad for Hill and the Wildcats that late in the third quarter they turned to redshirt freshman quarterback Braden Miles.
Miles was somewhat effective, leading the Wildcats down the field for another field goal.
“He actually did some good things,” Hill said of Miles. “That drive was big. We should have punched it into the end zone on that drive.” (Weber State had the ball on the 1-yard line, with first and goal, only to be forced to kick the field goal.)
In the end it all came down to Cantwell for the Wildcats — and a tough SUU team.
“You could tell (Cantwell’s injury) deflated both sides of the ball,” said Hill. “It shouldn’t have, but it did. He is heck of a leader, and when you lose a guy like that, that so many people turn to, that definitely hurts. You have to give SUU credit though. They were prepared for us.”
Tight end Andrew Vollert echoed his coach's remarks. “I am not going to lie to you, it was tough (seeing Cantwell leave the game). He is not only the leader of our offense, but the leader of our team. He is a heck of a player too. We have to do a better job, though. We have to have a better ‘next man up' mentality."
The T-Birds out gained Weber State 487 to 250 in total yards. Not only that, but SUU held the Wildcats to just three second half points, while scoring 12 themselves.