Information provided by Lion Sports
CEDAR CITY, Utah – Southern Utah quarterback Patrick Tyler threw three touchdowns, as the No. 23 Thunderbirds held off Southeastern Louisiana, 28-23, in non-conference FCS action Saturday evening at Eccles Coliseum.
Southeastern fell to 0-2 overall, as SUU (1-1) scored the first 14 points of the second half to pull out the narrow victory. The Lions dropped to 0-2 for the first time since 2012, despite an excellent performance in his first career start by senior quarterback Justin Alo.
"We were really happy with Justin's effort," Southeastern head coach Ron Roberts said. "Justin did some really nice things against a very good Southern Utah defense. He has a bright future for us."
Alo, threw for 275 yards and two touchdowns on 18-of-31 passing. Alo's top two targets were senior Brandon Acker (eight catches, 148 yards) and junior Juwan Dickey (five catches, 88 yards), both who caught touchdowns for the Lions. Senior Rasheed Harrell scored his first rushing touchdown of the season, as SLU finished with 411 total yards of offense.
Tyler countered Alo's efforts, throwing for 188 yards and three touchdowns on 18-of-28 passing. Two of the scores went to Brady Measom, who led the Thunderbirds with six catches and 58 yards. The Thunderbirds' balanced attack racked up 437 total yards, as Malik Brown accounted for 146 yards on 32 carries.
Southeastern was led defensively by junior Max Lyons, who finished with 11 tackles. Junior Ryan Sigers made 10 tackles, while juniors Torrance Mosley and Javon Tillman had nine stops apiece.
"We competed hard and were in the ball game the whole time," Roberts said. "However, we just made too many mistakes, especially defensively. At this point, we're our own worst enemy and we have to get past that as we start Southland Conference play."
Southeastern took the early lead with a five-play, 75-yard drive after the game's opening kickoff. A 31-yard run up the middle by senior Kaelyn Henderson keyed the march. Alo capped the drive with a 19-yard touchdown strike to Acker – the first touchdown pass of the Lions' signal caller's Southeastern career - to give the Lions a 7-0 lead with 12:49 left in the opening quarter.
Southern Utah answered on the ensuing drive, marching 46 yards on 11 plays. Tyler found Measom in the flat and he scampered in from six yards out to tie the score at 7-7 with 9:45 left in the opening quarter.
SLU marched into Thunderbird territory on the next drive, but SUU's Mike Needham intercepted Alo in the red zone to end the Lion scoring threat. After the Lion defense stopped Southern Utah three-and-out, Tillman returned a punt 22 yards to set up the Lions in Thunderbird territory.
Eight plays later, sophomore Jonathan Tatum gave Southeastern the lead with a 24-yard field goal to give the Lions a 10-7 cushion with 45 seconds left in the opening quarter.
Southern Utah moved into Southeastern territory on the ensuing drive, but on a fourth-and-short Lion senior linebacker Caleb Young deflected a Tyler pass to give the Lions the ball back.
After taking over, Alo found Acker for a 23-yard catch and run to move deep into SUU territory. Two plays later, Harrell capped a four-play, 69-yard drive with a five-yard touchdown run to give Southeastern a 17-7 lead with 12:14 left in the opening half.
SUU answered once again to cut the lead back to three. The Thunderbirds grinded out an 11-play, 87-yard drive to find the end zone for the second time. Ty Rutledge capped the drive by taking a direct snap and walking in from thee yards out to cut the Lion advantage to 17-14 with 8:33 remaining in the opening half.
After Southeastern was forced to punt for the first time in the game, Southern Utah looked to take its first lead of the game late in the first half, as they were set up with first-and-goal at the Lion one-yard line. The Lions stoned the Thunderbirds on four straight running plays with Mosley stopping James Felila on fourth-and-goal to cap the epic goal-line stand and send the Lions into the break with a 17-14 lead.
The two teams traded empty possessions to start the second half before Southern Utah took its first lead midway through the third quarter. A wide receiver pass by Mike Sharp fooled the Lion defense, as he found Steven Wroblewski for a 21-yard pass to move deep in SLU territory. Four plays later, Tyler hooked up with a wide open Measom for a 10-yard touchdown and a 21-17 lead with 7:57 left in the third quarter.
The two teams traded punts on the next two drives with Tate Lewis pinning SLU down at its own one-yard line on the final drive of the third quarter. After a couple of runs by sophomore Julius Maracalin gave SLU breathing room, Alo found a streaking Acker for a 50-yard catch and run to end the third quarter and move the Lions into Thunderbird territory.
The Lions would eventually drive inside the Thunderbird 30-yard line on the drive, but Maracalin would be stopped short on a fourth-and-six to give the Thunderbirds the ball back with just over 12 minutes remaining. Nine plays later, Tyler found Sharp open in the back corner of the end zone to give Southern Utah a 28-17 advantage with 9:27 remaining in the game.
Southeastern would not go away quietly, as the Lions cut the deficit to one score with a 12-play, 75-yard drive. Dickey hauled in a 20-yard touchdown from Alo with 3:33 remaining. The Lions went for two to cut it within a field goal, but Alo's pass to senior Juwann Rogers was knocked away, keeping SLU down, 28-23.
Southeastern was able to get the ball back with just over a minute left with a chance to take the lead, but Tyler Collet intercepted Alo to end the Lions' last threat.
Following a bye week, the Lions will open their five-game home schedule and Southland Conference play with a 6 p.m. game versus league foe Northwestern State on Saturday, Sept. 24 in Strawberry Stadium. The game will be televised live on Cox Sports Television and can be heard on the Southeastern Sports Radio Network, as well as at www.LionSports.net/listenlive and via the TuneIn Radio app. Live stats will also be accessible at LionSports.net.
Season tickets for the Lions' five-game home schedule are on sale until Friday, Sept. 23. Single-game tickets for Southeastern's home opener versus NSU and the Oct. 8 game versus defending league champion McNeese State are also on sale now. To purchase season or single-game tickets, contact the Southeastern Athletics Ticket Office at (985) 549-5466 or visit www.LionSports.net or www.LionUp.com.