Ed Lamb's gamble pays off for Southern Utah in win over rival Weber State
Ogden • Southern Utah coach Ed Lamb suffered a "rivalry moment" Saturday against Weber State.
Good thing for the Thunderbirds.
Aided by Lamb's decision to turn down a chip-shot field goal and go for a touchdown in the final seconds of the first half, SUU defeated the Wildcats at Stewart Stadium, 27-21.
The win improved Southern Utah's record to 7-3 overall and 4-2 in the Big Sky Conference. With two games remaining, it also kept alive the Thunderbirds' hope for an at-large bid to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
Weber State slipped to 1-9 and 0-6.
In his six seasons at SUU, Lamb has developed the reputation as a take-the-points coach. He keeps his gambling to a minimum, although he hit the jackpot against the Wildcats. Trailing 7-0 with 30 seconds left in the second quarter, Lamb decided to go for it on fourth-and-2 from the Weber State 3-yard line. After he picked up the first down, Levi Tao dove across the goal line from less than a yard out to tie the game.
Asked why the turned down an almost-certain field goal so late in the second quarter, Lamb shook his head slightly and smiled.
"I don't know," he said. "I think I might have been caught up in the rivalry moment a little bit. I can't give a good legal justification for why I should have done that."
The decision turned the game in favor of Southern Utah, which scored 17 straight points in the second half.
According to Weber State coach Jody Sears, his team remained upbeat despite giving up the tying touchdown.
"I loved the locker room at halftime," he said. "It was like, 'Let's win. ... We're playing dang good football. Let's win.'"
Southern Utah dominated the third quarter, however.
On Weber State's opening possession, Austin Chipoletti's pass on second-and-20 was intercepted by SUU's LeShaun Sims. His return along with one of five unsportsmanlike conduct penalties called on the Wildcats set up quarterback Mike Sharp's go-ahead touchdown run from the one.
"The kid made a heck of a play," Sears said. "... They rolled the coverage on it and [Chipoletti] did see the guy roll out out of there."
On the next possession, Weber State's Shaydon Kehano fumbled after a pass reception that would have given the Wildcats a first down at the SUU 14.
The Thunderbirds recovered and bumped their lead to 17-7 on Colton Cook's 23-yard field. They put the game out of reach with 6:27 left on Aaron Cantu's 12-yard touchdown pass to Griff McNabb.
For Weber State, the game was a missed opportunity, thanks partly to 11 penalties costing 124 yards.
"Like I told them after the game," Sears said. "Love their heart. Love their passion. Love where their energy is. I absolutely love it. ... They want to win so bad and it's right there. They want to reach out and grab it. But we have to be smarter."
R Southern Utah improves its record to 7-3 overall and 4-2 in the Big Sky Conference with a 27-21 win at Weber State.
• Coming off the bench, Thunderbird quarterback Aaron Cantu throws for 117 yards and a touchdown in the second half.