September 8, 2012; Berkeley, CA, USA; Southern Utah Thunderbirds wide receiver Fatu Moala (8) between plays against the California Golden Bears during the third quarter at Memorial Stadium. The California Golden Bears defeated the Southern Utah Thunderbirds 50-31. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
This weekend the Washington State Cougars will line up across from the Southern Utah Thunderbirds. If you are like me the first thing that comes to mind is “Who?” The SUU T-birds are a FCS team that is very competitive in the division below the Cougars. There isn’t much to know about the T-birds, as they are a team that flies under the radar in college football. Here is what I do know.
Last season the Thunderbirds were able to beat some respectable opponents in the FCS behind the arm of Brad Sorensen (drafted 7th round to San Diego Chargers) this year it is a little different. Aaron Cantu will line up as the signal caller, Cantu is a JUCO transfer who joined the T-birds in January. Cantu went 15-16 for 136 yards and 4 touchdowns against Fort Lewis, he also only played in the first half. .
One thing that is evident about the Thunderbirds is that they have a high scoring offense, putting up 49 points last week against Fort Lewis, a team a division below them (now known as Div. II), and putting up 30 or more points in 6 of their 11 games (29 in one game). Beating teams like Montana, Portland State, Eastern Washington, and Northern Arizona gives a good reputation to the Thunderbirds.
To get to know some of their top players I looked at their statistics from last year. Four of their top five receivers are returning this year, including top receiver Fatu Moala who had 65 catches for 810 yards and 9 TD’s. It is the opposite for the running game, only one of the top five running backs will be returning. All 4 returning backs carried the ball just one time each last year totaling 35 yards between the four.
The Thunderbirds return 6 offensive starters from last year.
The defense of the T-birds is something that scares me a little more than their offense. The defense forced 7 turnovers in their game against Fort Lewis, 6 of which came in the first half. Allowing just 214 total yards of offense and only 48 yards on the ground.
Five of the seven top defensive players will be returning including Zak Browning, who totaled 116 total tackles last year. Tommy Collett Jr. and LeShaun Sims both had 3 interceptions a piece last year and both are returning this year. Collet Jr. has 3 interceptions already this year. Last years sack leader James Cowser also returns. Cowser had 7.5 sacks last season.
The Thunderbirds return 7 defensive starters from last year.