College football: Sacramento State rallies to win at Southern Utah
Cedar City • Southern Utah's first three losses this season against Utah State, California and Montana State were understandable.
Sacramento State's 27-22 victory over the Thunderbirds on Saturday is far more difficult to explain.
While the Hornets own a win over Colorado, they also struggled against Big Sky Conference bottom-feeders Idaho State and Northern Colorado.
Southern Utah could not stop Sacramento State in the second half, however, and the result was a crushing defeat that coach Ed Lamb admits eliminated the Thunderbirds from Big Sky and postseason contention.
"This is going to hurt," he said. "We expected to compete for a championship and playoff spot and, at this point, both of those are done."
Southern Utah, 2-4 overall and 1-2 in the Big Sky, scored 10 points in the final 53 seconds of the first half to build a 16-7 lead.
Sacramento State recovered, though, when quarterback Garrett Safron ran 68 yards for a touchdown on the Hornets' first possession of the third quarter.
"I thought we had a controlling lead," Lamb said. "But that [run] changed the whole dynamic of the game. It ignited their sideline. Credit their quarterback for running away from our defense."
SUU quickly regained a 22-14 lead, but Sacramento State stayed close on Safron's eight-yard touchdown run.
Then, with 9:18 left, the Hornets took the lead on A.J. Ellis' two-yard touchdown. They converted three third-downs on the 80-yard drive.
Still, the Thunderbirds had a chance.
Griff McNab's 30-yard punt return gave SUU the ball at the Sacramento State 49. Three plays gained only four yards, however, and Lamb decided to punt with 4:25 left.
"I didn't want to risk putting our defense on a short field," he said.
SUU got the ball back on its own 18 with 2:12 remaining. But the Thunderbirds had used their three time-outs and the final drive ended when quarterback Brad Sorensen's arm was hit and his third-down pass was intercepted.
Sorensen finished 20-for-32 for 327 yards, but he was 2-for-7 for four yards in the fourth quarter.
"I think I was hanging onto the ball too long," he said. "Maybe my eyes were looking in the wrong spot."
R Southern Utah squanders a 16-7 halftime lead and Sacramento State scores a 27-22 victory.
• Hornets' quarterback Garrett Safron ignites the rally with an 68-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
• SUU quarterback Brad Sorensen completes 20 of 32 passes for 327 yards and one touchdown.
Sacramento State 27, Southern Utah 22
Sacramento St. 7 0 13 7 27
S. Utah 3 13 6 0 22
SUt • FG Cook 33, 9:27.
Sac • Norrise 23 pass from Safron (Castaneda kick), 4:07.
SUt • FG Cook 18, 12:14.
SUt • McNabb 28 pass from Sorensen (Cook kick), :53.
SUt • FG Cook 43, :00.
Sac • Safron 63 run (Castaneda kick), 13:40.
SUt • Wilson 1 run (kick failed), 8:58.
Sac • Safron 8 run (pass failed), 3:55.
Sac • Ellis 2 run (Castaneda kick), 9:18.
Attendance • 3,766.
First downs 18 16
Rushes-yards 38-158 30-61
Passing 192 327
Comp-Att-Int 21-29-2 20-32-1
Return Yards 16 63
Punts-Avg. 4-48.8 4-38.5
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 1-0
Penalties-yards 7-35 4-35
Time of Possession 30:10 29:50
Rushing • Sacramento St., Safron 12-91, Graham 15-48, Coleman 3-14,
Ellis 5-8, Team 3-(minus 3). S. Utah, Wilson 17-47,
Crawford-Harris 6-18, H.Brown 1-2, Ika 2-1, Sorensen 4-(minus 7).
Passing • Sacramento St., Safron 21-29-2-192. S. Utah,
Receiving • Sacramento St., Knowles 4-29, Robertson 4-23,
Norrise 3-59, Graham 3-27, Coleman 2-27, Dotson 2-12, Harrison 2-9,
Ellis 1-6. S. Utah, Jessop 6-115, McNabb 4-51, H.Brown 2-75,
Pedersen 2-31, Crawford-Harris 2-22, C..Morgan 2-14, Moala 1-15, Ika 1-4.