Cedar City • Southern Utah has been plagued by slow starts.
If it happens again Saturday against Sacramento State, the Thunderbirds' chance in the Big Sky Conference could be finished.
SUU, 2-3 overall and 1-1 in the Big Sky, has been outscored 49-6 in the first quarter this season.
During last week's 24-17 loss to second-ranked Montana State, the Thunderbirds fell behind 7-0, but the Bobcats' domination was complete. They outgained Southern Utah, 178-45, and held the ball for nearly 10 minutes in the opening quarter.
"What it comes down to is mindset," said SUU coach Ed Lamb. "The fact is we are capable of playing much better at the start of these games."
Lamb knows the Thunderbirds can't afford another loss and expect to win or share the Big Sky title.
"We can't win a championship this week," he said, "but a loss will likely prevent it."
Lamb and his assistants have not dwelled on the significance of the game against the Hornets, but they have mentioned it to their players.
"We're not spending a lot of time talking about," Lamb said. "We've simply and briefly explained things to our players. But 100 percent of our focus has been on Sacramento State nothing else."
SUU will be without defensive end Austin Anderson, who injured his knee on a chop block against Montana State. He probably won't play again this season.
"He had been playing very well really progressing," Lamb said.
Along with the chop block, Montana State's Caleb Schreibeis was suspended this week for his illegal hit on SUU receiver Cameron Morgan. Also, Montana State offensive lineman John Weidenaar was ejected from the game for unsportsmanlike conduct. Lamb, extremely complimentary of Montana State before the game, hasn't changed his mind.
"It's not a reflection of the program," Lamb said. "Those players made horrible decisions. â¦ It's disappointing, but I believe it was just a lapse in judgement by the individual players."
Sacramento State at Southern Utah
P At Eccles Coliseum (Cedar City)
Kickoff • 1 p.m. TV • None. Radio • 91.1 FM
Records • Sacramento State, 3-2, 1-1; Southern Utah 2-3, 1-1
Series • Tied 6-6
Last meeting • SUU 35, Sacramento State 14 (2011)
About the Thunderbirds • They have won eight straight games when rushing for at least 100 yards.
About the Hornets • They have beaten two Pac-12 opponents (Oregon State, Colorado) in the last two seasons.