DAVIS, California - In a high-stakes clash under the California lights, Southern Utah Football took on #16 UC Davis at UC Davis Health Stadium on September 16, 2023. The game was a rollercoaster of emotions, with both teams displaying incredible resolve and skill on the field. When the dust settled, UC Davis narrowly edged out Southern Utah, with a 23-21 victory.

Head Coach DeLane Fitzgerald Said

"Our offense slept-walked through the first 40 minutes of the game and after that, we decided we were going to play hard and do some things well… These young men are playing hard but just not doing enough to get the win, and I have said that more than I want to this season. "

"I thought we were tight and flat on offense but we played really well on defense and we put our defense in some tough situations and they stepped up."

"We need to execute and play a little more freely on offense, defense, and special teams."

"Our goals for this season are still in play, we can still go undefeated at home and if we can beat all of the teams from the former WAC conference then we can still have a chance to win the conference and play for a playoff spot."

First Quarter Drama (0-3):

The contest kicked off with UC Davis taking an early lead. After an interception on the first T-Bird play from scrimmage, the defense shut the Aggies down and Hunter Ridley's trusty leg booted a 43-yard field goal, giving UC Davis a 3-0 advantage. Ridley wasn't done for the game, as he added to his tally with another field goal, this time from 22 yards out. As the first quarter concluded, UC Davis held a slim 6-0 lead.

A Defensive Standoff (0-0):

The second quarter was marked by a defensive showdown as both teams dug in. Neither squad managed to put any points on the board during this period. Both teams recorded some impressive stops keeping the score unchanged heading into halftime.

Third-Quarter Action (7-13):

The third quarter brought more excitement to the game. The Aggies extended their lead when Miles Hastings connected with Josh Gale for a 14-yard touchdown pass. Southern Utah answered back, finally breaking onto the scoreboard when Justin Miller found Isaiah Wooden for a 3-yard touchdown pass to the front corner of the end zone. At the close of the third quarter, UC Davis held a 13-7 lead.

Fourth-Quarter Fireworks (21-23):

The final quarter of play saw the game's most exhilarating moments. UC Davis surged ahead once more as Miles Hastings unleashed a 73-yard touchdown pass to Lan Larison, with Ridley's extra point extending their lead to 20-7. However, Southern Utah refused to go quietly, launching a spirited comeback. Justin Miller connected with Isaiah Wooden for a remarkable 66-yard touchdown pass.

UC Davis moved the ball well but the dagger touchdown was not to be, as the Thunderbirds defense held them to a field goal, stretching the Aggies advantage to 23-14. With time ticking away, Southern Utah mounted a furious rally. Miller orchestrated a 75-yard drive, culminating in a 13-yard touchdown pass to Zach Mitchell. In a nail-biting finish, Southern Utah's valiant comeback attempt fell just short when the Aggies fielded the onside kick to close the game at 23-21.

Offensive Leaders

Despite a slow start, Justin Miller displayed impressive resilience, completing 20 of 42 passes for 324 yards and three touchdowns, while tossing just one interception. Isaiah Wooden shone as a standout receiver, amassing seven receptions for 122 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receivers Zach Mitchell and Timothy Patrick each secured big games, going for 92 and 72 yards respectively. Mitchell brought his touchdown total to three on the year with the late score.

Defensive Leaders

On the defensive side, linebacker Kohner Cullimore led the charge, tallying 12 total tackles and two tackles for loss. Linebacker Aubrey Nellems was also impressive in the game totaling nine tackles. Defensive back Trevon Gola-Callardhad another big game for the Thunderbirds with seven tackles and two pass break-ups.

Next Up

The Thunderbirds will finally play a home game as they welcome Western Illinois to Eccles Coliseum on Saturday, September 23, 2023. The Homecoming game for Southern Utah will begin at 6:00 p.m. MT and will be broadcast on ESPN+.

(Courtesy: SUU Athletics)

More From KSUB 590/107.7