Southern Utah Nearly Pulls Off Comeback Before Falling To Arizona State

Sep 1, 2023, 2:03 AM | Updated: Sep 5, 2023, 7:02 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – The Southern Utah football program nearly kicked off its season with what would have been an upset of the Arizona State Sun Devils.

Southern Utah vs. Arizona State

The Sun Devils hosted the Thunderbirds at Mountain America. Stadium in Tempe, Arizona on Thursday, August 31.

ASU held off an upset-minded SUU, 24-21.

Southern Utah got off to a slow start in the season opener.

The Thunderbirds were held scoreless in the opening quarter and fell behind 7-0 after an Arizona State touchdown six minutes into the contest. However, in the beginning minutes of the second quarter, the T-Birds got on the scoreboard. With 11:05 to go until halftime, Thunderbirds running back Targhee Lambson powered his way across the goal line for a one-yard touchdown and Southern Utah’s first points of the contest. Lambson’s run helped tie the game at 7-7.

Arizona State regained the lead later in the quarter on a 47-yard touchdown with 5:32 left in the first half. The Sun Devils added another touchdown to their total with another score two minutes before the break.

ASU entered the locker room at halftime with a 21-7 advantage on the scoreboard.

Despite the Sun Devils’ lead, things weren’t too hot at the break in Tempe. A large storm rolled into the greater Phoenix area during the second quarter and forced the game into a weather delay with lightning.

RELATED: Southern Utah’s Opener At Arizona State Hits Weather Delay At Halftime

The weather delay lasted for more than two and a half hours. The game kicked off at 8 p.m. (MDT). Following the delay, the second half began around 12:30 a.m. (MDT).

In the third quarter, both teams showed some rust as the action got underway again.

A few minutes into the third quarter, Southern Utah emerged as the team with more energy. The Thunderbirds moved the ball effectively on multiple drives. However, penalties halted SUU’s ability to get into scoring territory until late in the quarter.

With 49 seconds remaining in the third quarter, SUU’s Justin Miller found Zack Mitchell for a 17-yard touchdown connection. The play trimmed Arizona State’s lead to one score, 21-14.

A minute and a half into the final quarter, the Sun Devils made a 38-yard field goal to stretch their lead back to two possessions.

With 7:48 left to play, the Thunderbirds made one of their biggest plays of the night/early morning. Southern Utah blocked an ASU punt at the Sun Devils’ 39-yard line and returned the ball to the house. The special teams special and subsequent PAT cut SUU’s deficit to 24-21.

After forcing the Sun Devils to punt the ball back, the Thunderbirds were unable to get a drive going on their next possession. Southern Utah went three and out and its next possession and Arizona State managed to run the clock out for a three-point win over the visitors from the Beehive State.

Miller finished the contest 8/17 passing for 123 yards and a touchdown. Braedon Wissler led SUU’s running attack with 15 carries for 45 yards.

Up Next For SUU Football

With the loss, the T-Birds opened their 2023 campaign with an 0-1 record.

Southern Utah’s next game is on the road against the in-state BYU Cougars. BYU is scheduled to host SUU at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, September 9 at 1 p.m. (MDT). The game will be broadcast on ESPN+, KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM & 1160 AM),, and the KSL Sports app.

Kyle Ireland is a Sports Producer and Locals in the NFL Insider for He’s also co-host of the Yards After College Podcast. Follow him on X/Twitter (@kyleireland), Instagram (@kyleirelandksl), and Threads (@kyleirelandksl).

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Southern Utah Nearly Pulls Off Comeback Before Falling To Arizona State