The Jacks enter the final stretch of their season with a renewed focus as they are challenged with two conference games on the road. In the first game, the Jacks travel to Cedar City, Utah, to face the University of Southern Utah. The Jacks are leading the Great West Football Conference with a 2-0 record, while Southern Utah enters the game in last place of the Great West, 0-3.
“There’s a new excitement to finish this thing off,” Head Coach John Stiegelmeier said. “I sense a mature attitude also … they know they need to take care of business.”
Stiegelmeier said the team still strives to finish 1-0 every week.
Last season, Southern Utah finished the season 1-9. This year, the Thunderbirds started the 2006 season much better than the previous, winning their first two games. They now have a record of 3-6. Unlike the Jackrabbits, who enter the game riding a six-game winning streak, the Thunderbirds will perform with a five-game losing streak in tow.
In Southern Utah’s first Great West game, the Thunderbirds pushed California Polytechnic University to the end. Cal Poly scored 15 points in the fourth quarter to secure an 18-14 comeback victory.
Stiegelmeier said after watching film, “It is real evident they are a good football team.”
However, he said, their record doesn’t mean anything.
According to Stiegelmeier, the key to the Jackrabbit’s defense will be to control Southern Utah’s quarterback Wes Marshall. Marshall leads the Thunderbirds’ offense, is second on the team in rushing and has thrown for 15 touchdowns this season.
His favorite target is Division-I transfer wide receiver Joey Hew Len. Hew Len has 42 receptions on the year, 30 more than the second receiver. He also leads the Great West Football Conference with eight touchdowns.
Offensively, Stiegelmeier said the key for the Jacks will be to sustain drives. He said the Thunderbirds’ defensive is very aggressive and very active, and he doesn’t expect his team to be able to create many big plays.
La’Var Porter and D.J. Senter lead the Thunderbirds’ defense. The two are tied for the team lead in tackles with 62. Levi Erickson anchors the defensive line by leading the team with four sacks. Dave Zelasko’s two interceptions lead Southern Utah’s secondary.
The game marks the third time these two schools have met. SDSU and Southern Utah have split the two meetings, with Southern Utah defeating the Jacks, 23-17, in double overtime two years ago in Cedar City. SDSU stomped the Thunderbirds, 55-7, in Coughlin-Alumni Stadium. Last year’s game was never close. SDSU scored on the opening kickoff, as JaRon Harris ran 86 yards for the touchdown. SDSU scored four touchdowns in the first quarter, while Utah State did not get on the board until late in the fourth quarter.