Courtesy: SUU Media Relations
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BROOKINGS, S.D., Sept. 3 - Southern Utah won the first and fourth periods while South Dakota State won the second and third but in the end the Jackrabbits pulled out a 29-28 season-opening win over the Thunderbirds Saturday night.
After allowing 29 unanswered points to fall behind 29-7 the Thunderbirds made a furious comeback in the fourth period, taking advantage of an interception and a fumble to score 21 points in the period and holding a chance to tie or win after Brad Sorensen hit Jared Ursua for a 3-yard touchdown with two seconds to play.
The Thunderbirds opted to go for the win, but Sorensen's pass to Daryl Brown in the end zone was knocked away by Dirk Kool, spoiling the Thunderbirds' come-back bid.
With 2:29 to play it appeared the Thunderbirds chances had come to an end when Winston Wright intercepted a Sorensen pass at the SUU 48 yard line with the Jackrabbits holding a 29-22 advantage. Chad Hansen and Blake Fenn gave the Thunderbirds renewed life, however, when Hansen hit Tyrel Kool in the backfield, forced a fumble, and Fenn recovered it at the SUU 34 yard line.
The Thunderbirds drove 66 yards in 12 plays to pull within one, then SUU Head Coach Ed Lamb opted to go for two points and the win rather than for one and the tie. The scene was reminiscent of a game at Cal Poly in 2009 when the Thunderbirds scored to pull within one of the Mustangs and lined up for athe two-point conversion. Cal Poly called a time-out, however, and during the ensuing break Lamb opted to kick the point but the attempt was wide and the Thunderbirds came up short.
This time, after SDSU Coach John Steigelmeier called time out before the attempt Lamb said his decision didn't waver.
"I can't say I was thinking about [the Cal Poly game] on the sideline but I can remember really being disappointed that I had allowed the opponent's itme out to keep me going for two. The rest of that story is we missed the PAT (at Cal Poly), it's not two points or overtime, it's two points or one point, and that's a lesson I learned."
Southern Utah got on the board first when Daryl Brown pulled in a 25-yard pass from Brad Sorensen near the end of the first period. On the ensuing SDSU drive the Jackrabbits took advantage of a late hit out of bounds to move from mid-field to the 20-yard line, but the SUU defense held the Jacks to a 31-yard Kyle Harris field goal.
After holding the Thunderbirds on their ensuing possession the Jackrabbits went up 9-7 with 4:29 to play in the half when Thomas O'Brien found Aaron Rollin n a 5-yard pass play, but Harris' PAT attempt was wide right. SDSU had an opportunity to open a wider lead at the end of the half, but Harris' 49-yard field goal attempt was also wide right with 18 seconds to play.
The Jackrabbits asserted themselves in the third period, when the defense picked off two passes and limited the Thunderbirds to 64 yards of offense, while the offense took advantage of the turnovers and swing pass opportunities to the running backs, winding up with 124 yards and 20 points in the period.
After each team had drives stall in the third period Chris Tracy intercepted a Sorensen pass at the SUU 45 yard line, leading to a 4-yard O'Brien to Tyrel Kool touchdown pass. On Southern Utah's first play from scrimmage on its ensuing drive a Sorensen pass went through Austin Minefee's hands and was caught by Ross Shafrath. The second interception led to a 3-yard pass from O'Brien to Kyle Sheehan and a 23-7 Jackrabbit lead.
The Jackrabbits extended their advantage to 29-7 on the final play of the third period when Zach Zenner ran 27 yards on a delayed handoff for another score.
Southern Utah climbed back in the game in the fourth period, driving 82 yards on nine plays to pull back within 29-15 after Sorensen found Jared Ursua on the left side for a 37-yard score with 12:35 to play. The Thunderbird defense then got on the scoreboard when Erron Vonner intercepted an O'Brien pass and returned it 31 yards to a touchdown to pull SUU within 29-22 after a 2-point conversion.
Sorensen completed 31-of-46 passes for 340 yards and three touchdowns, but he was sacked four times and gave up the three interceptions. Ursua caught a career-high nine passes for 129 yards and two scores. SUU finished with 393 total yards, while SDSU had 416.
Sorensen's yards were the fourth-most in his career at SUU and the ninth-most in a game by a Thunderbird.
O'Brien finshed with 279 passing yards, on 27-of-40 passing, with two interceptions and a career-high tying three TD passes while Tyrell Kool carried 28 times for 107 yards and led the team with six receptions for 79 yards.
Hansen led all tacklers with 12 stops, seven solo, while Marlon Hogains had 10 tackles, all solo, for SUU. Cody Larsen had a sack and an interception for SUU.
-- SUU --