HUNTSVILLE, Texas – The FCS playoff game between Southern Utah University and Sam Houston State had a little bit of everything, but in the end, it was another disappointing opening-round playoff loss for the Thunderbirds.
SUU traveled to play the Bearkats in the playoffs for the second time in three years and once again left with a loss, this time a 42-39 heartbreaker.
“Just credit Sam Houston,” SUU head coach Ed Lamb said. “They did a good job taking away some of the shorter passes and putting a lot of numbers in the box on the run. We tried to win over the top a couple times and we weren’t able to connect. We had what we thought were some good one-on-one matchups and credit Sam Houston’s DBs for playing physical down the field and not allowing those passes to connect.”
Southern Utah trailed 19-6 early in the second quarter after a touchdown run by Bearkat Tre Honshstein. But by halftime, the T-birds had forged a 32-26 lead behind TD runs by Malik Brown and Ty Rutledge and consecutive TD passes from Ammon Olsen to Mike Sharp of 36 and 34 yards.
Olsen and Sharp hooked up again two minutes into the third quarter to give SUU its biggest lead of the night, 39-26.
SHSU cut it to 39-33 four minutes later on a short TD run by Frank Ridgway and the score stayed that way until the fourth quarter, when Sam Houston cut it to 39-35 by tackling an SUU running back in the end zone for a safety.
The T-birds allowed a touchdown that put SHSU up three points with 3:44 left in the game. The T-birds had two chances to move the ball downfield, but a turnover on downs and a fumble ended the season.
The fumble, which came after Olsen threw a strike to Justin Brown for a gain of 25 yards that looked to start a game-winning drive, came near midfield with less than a minute left in the game and the Bearkats recovered to end the T-Birds season.
Both teams got off to a fast start, taking their opening drives for touchdowns, but a blocked point-after try after the SUU touchdown was returned for two points for the Bearkats and seemed to take away all momentum SUU may have found early. The Bearkats took a 16-6 lead into the second quarter.
The T-birds outscored the Bearkats 26-10 in the second quarter. Of their four second-quarter touchdowns, the T-birds scored three of them in under two minutes. The fourth touchdown only took 2:52 off the clock.
Both defenses played strong in the second half as each team scored only one touchdown in the third quarter and SUU led 39-33 going into the fourth quarter.
SUU’s defense came up with big stops to start the fourth quarter as the T-birds blocked a 39-yard field goal and held SHSU twice inside the red zone to get the ball back on downs. In between the two drives, SHSU tackled Pete Williams in the end zone on a delayed run for a safety.
All it took was one play for SHSU to take the lead as Jeremiah Briscoe hit Yedidiah Louis for a 55 yard touchdown.
SUU’s Olsen threw for 379 yards and two touchdowns. Mike Sharp had eight catches for 141 yards and three touchdowns. Brady Measom caught seven passes for 118 yards and a touchdown.
“On film they showed they were very athletic, they like to blitz, they like to load the box,” Olsen said about the Sam Houston defense. “But they also have some great DBs, so we knew we had to attack the way we could, and they made some changes at halftime that made us struggle and you’ve got to credit them, but we were just a couple plays short today.”
Rutledge led the T-birds with 61 yards on one carry and a touchdown, and he added 39 yards on eight receptions for the team. Malik Brown had 58 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown.
For SHSU, Briscoe threw for 211 yards and a touchdown. Ridgeway led the team in rushing with 137 yards rushing on 29 carries. Remus Bulmer added 111 more yards on 16 carries.
SUU finished with 535 total yards on the day, while the Bearkats finished with 579 total yards.
SUU finished its 2015 season with an 8-4 record overall with a Big Sky Conference Championship.
Stats: SHSU 42, SUU 39
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.