It was difficult to move the football on them. They had a good game plan. —SUU head coach Demario Warren
CEDAR CITY — Heading into Saturday night’s game against the Weber State Wildcats, the first ever home playoff game for Southern Utah, the Thunderbirds were on fire.
They had reeled off seven consecutive victories, including wins over three ranked opponents including Weber State, Eastern Washington and Northern Arizona.
The offense in particular had come into its own, a fact that T-Birds head coach Demario Warren noted Thursday night before the big postseason contest.
“Offensively we really came into our own the last six or seven weeks of the season,” Warren said. “Once we catch fire, we can light up the scoreboard.”
Case in point, the T-Birds had scored 40 or more points in four of their last five regular-season contests, showing an upward momentum in offensive production.
For the season, SUU was averaging 35.5 points per game, 455.5 yards per game and upwards of 5.6 yards each play.
All told, the T-Birds had racked up over 5,000 yards of offense, good enough to qualify as the 12th best scoring offense in the country.
It came to a screeching halt in Eccles Coliseum against the Wildcats.
Weber State defeated Southern Utah 30-13 in a game that proved the worst of nightmares for the Thunderbirds.
After scoring the first 10 points of the contest and racking up 145 yards in the first quarter, SUU mustered a measly 74 yards and three points the rest of the way.
The total of 13 points was the lowest-scoring output for a Thunderbird team against its rivals since its 24-13 loss to Weber State in 2006.
“Weber State came out, played a great game and beat us thoroughly after that first quarter,” Warren said. “We were worried about two things in the game, could we start fast and stay sharp after the bye (week) and could we keep the urgency and our stamina up if we did get to a good start.
“We got up a quick 10 points and then let them get back into the ballgame,” he added. “They did a great job, outcoached us and outplayed us tonight.”
The most telling aspect of the game, as far as Warren was concerned, was pressure put on quarterback Patrick Tyler.
Tyler came into the contest ranked as one of the top 15 passers in the country, throwing for over 275 yards per game. Saturday night, he was only able to complete 16-of-31 passes for 129 yards.
More importantly, the senior quarterback was sacked six times, a statistic that fails to take into account hurries and tackles for loss.
“We gave up six sacks,” Warren said. “We couldn’t get going with our tempo because we couldn’t get ahead of the chains. It was difficult to move the football on them. They had a good game plan.”
“They just made a lot of plays,” added Tyler. “We didn’t win our one-on-ones. We talked about that all week, we knew they were going to play a lot of man (defense) and we just did a bad job all around. I missed a couple throws, we threw some bad blocks. We just didn’t click.”
The defeat ends a fantastic campaign by the T-Birds, one that featured a nine-win season and a Big Sky championship.
“I’m completely proud of the way our guys finished the game,” said Warren. “They fought to the very end and did everything that we have taught them to do. I couldn’t be prouder to be their head coach.”