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T-Birds face another ranked team

CEDAR CITY — No one could accuse the Southern Utah University football team of playing a weak schedule.

For the fourth time this year and the fourth time in five weeks, the T-Birds play a ranked team when they host No. 25 UC Davis today at 6 p.m. at Eccles Coliseum.

The T-Birds are 1-2 in games vs. ranked teams. They lost to Stephen F. Austin in overtime and fell to Cal Poly, 24-17, two weeks ago. SUU roughed up McNeese State, 56-14.

The T-Birds (2-4, 0-2) have lost their games by a combined 22 points.

"It's going to be another tough game," SUU coach Wes Meier said. "We need to win one of these close ones instead of being on the other end."

The T-Birds are out of the running for the first-ever Great West Football Conference championship with two losses. Cal Poly and UC Davis are tied for the league lead with 2-0 records with three conference games remaining.

"We're taking it a game at a time and playing for pride," Meier said. "The big point I want to get across to these guys is we're still a good football team."

In all four losses, including last week's 27-21 loss to North Dakota State, the T-Birds have recorded more offensive yards than their opponents.

"We have shown a tendency to play about to the level of the competition, which is encouraging because UC Davis is one of the better teams," Meier said. "We've played well against the better teams and not so well a couple of times when we were probably more talented than our opponents. We need to develop consistency in our play. We can still be a good football team."

Against the Bison, the T-Birds committed five of the season's 12 turnovers and trailed 20-0 at the half.

Quarterback Casey Rehrer threw for two touchdowns in the second half and Levi Erickson added a 67-yard fumble return for a touchdown, but it wasn't enough.

Also, the T-Birds were flagged 10 times — the third time this year they've had 10 penalties or more in a game.

"The turnovers really hurt us and we really couldn't get into a groove offensively," Meier said. "Defensively, we hung in there pretty good."

The T-Birds held the Bison to just 53 yards rushing.

The Southern Utah defense will have its hands full with UC Davis (5-1, 2-0), as it averages 437 yards (314.5 passing, 122.7 rushing) a game.

"They prefer to throw it but they can run it, too," Meier said.

Quarterback Jon Grant has completed 108 of 173 passes for 1,602 yards and 14 touchdowns with just five interceptions. Kevin Freeman leads five Aggie receivers with 200 receiving yards or more with 29 catches for 495 yards and five scores. All five receivers with 10 catches or more are also averaging more than 10 yards per catch.

Running backs O.J. Swanigan and Nelson Doris have 285 rushing yards each.

Rehrer has completed 146 of 221 passes for 1,510 yards and 14 touchdowns with eight interceptions.

He also leads the team in rushing with 342 yards.

A.J. Smith leads the receivers with 51 for 445 yards, and Jerome Eason has 41 catches for 537 yards and a team-high six touchdown receptions.

Including today's game, the T-Birds will play four of their final five games at home.


T-Birds on the air

UC Davis (5-1, 2-0) at Southern Utah (2-4, 0-2)

Today, 6 p.m., Eccles Coliseum

TV: None

Radio: 590 KSUB (Cedar City)

Internet:www.suu.edu/ksuu


E-mail: jhinton@desnews.com