In a game which was close throughout, Southern Utah overcame a 27-20 fourth quarter deficit with 10 points in the final 7:01 to to claim the win.
SUU got the ball to open the second half with the game tied 13-13, and it didn’t go well for the Thunderbirds as they gave up two sacks and had a tipped ball caught by offensive guard Zach Brackus for four yards, forcing a punt. Eastern Washington took the ball and put together a four-play, 53-yard drive to take the lead on Demitrius Bronson’s four yard run, but the Thunderbirds answered with a nine-play, 86-yard drive capped by a one-yard Lavell Ika run for a touchdown to tie the game again at 20-20.
On their ensuing possession the Eagles again put together a four-play scoring drive, taking a 27-20 lead on an 18-yard pass from Vernon Adams to Ashton Clark.
The Thunderbirds appeared to again be answering, as they drove the length of the field but Sorensen’s pass intended for Fatu Moala was intercepted by McKenzie Murphey at the three yard line, thwarting the drive and seemingly throwing the momentum back to the Eagles.
The fates smiled on the the Thunderbirds, however, as Trever McFalls forced a Bronson fumble at the eight yard line and Zak Browning was able to recover it at the 12.
The Thunderbirds tied the game when Sorensen found Moala on a 21-yard pass with 7:01 to play, then after Jimmy Pavel missed a 37-yard field goal with 2:51 to go the Thunderbirds took over and put together the winning drive.
SUU ran the ball eight times and passed just once – a 15-yard Sorensen-to-C.J. Morgan completion on third and four – in driving from their own 20 to the Eagle 19-yard line. With three seconds on the clock, and after a time out by each team, Cook calmly stepped up and hit the field goal for the win.
“It felt good right off my foot, I knew when I kicked it, it was good,” Cook said. “I knew right away.”
Southern Utah was looking to run the clock on that final drive, and even though the team has struggled to run the ball this season, Lamb said they had faith in the final drive.
“We had been slipping in the run effectively for quite some time,” he pointed it out. “Brad was throwing the ball at a great clip, and the receivers were on and our pass protection was really good, but we knew we could slip in some runs and I think that rhythm we were in was really good, throwing on first down and slipping in some runs on roughly second and five, so I think we had confidence that we could run against their team. So, at the right time, when it was a no-brainer to run the ball we were able to do it. We got into some bigger sets and flexed our muscle a little bit.”
Cook’s game-winner wasn’t the only big contribution from the Thunderbird special teams, as the opening score of the game came when redshirt freshman Miles Killebrew blocked a punt then returned it 41 yards for an SUU touchdown in the first quarter. Cook was three-for-four in field goals on the day, hitting three straight after misfiring from 42 yards out in the first period.
The Thunderbirds finished with exactly 100 rushing yards, giving them nine straight victories when they rush for 100 or more yards. Brian Wilson led the way with 93 yards on 20 carries.
Moala finished with 10 receptions for 112 yards and the touchdown as SUU finished with a season-high 492 yards of total offense.
Browning led the team with 15 tackles while Jeff Tukuafu had a pair of sacks and LeShaun Sims had an interception for the Thunderbirds.