Division I Southern Utah takes down Brevard

Box Score

CEDAR CITY, Utah – The Brevard College football team traveled 2,048 miles to face Division I Southern Utah University on Saturday evening, falling 55-7 to the Thunderbirds in the shadow of the Cedar Mountains in southwestern Utah.

Anthony Washington provided the primary offensive highlight for the Tornados (0-4), running for an eight-yard touchdown scamper early in the fourth quarter to cap a 12-play, 80-yard scoring drive that took over six minutes off the clock. Brevard benefitted from a 36-yard completion to Alex Drasser from quarterback Tyler Gregory on 3rd and 7 early in the drive that represented a career long for both players.

Brevard also effectively moved the ball on its final drive of the game, taking nearly eight minutes off the clock to drive 56 yards in 14 plays. The Tornados moved as far as the Southern Utah (2-2) 17-yard line before a two-yard loss and a penalty repelled them from the red zone. The drive ended with the Thunderbirds’ seventh interception of the season, a category in which the team ranks second in the FCS, at the Tornados’ one-yard line with three seconds remaining. It was the first time in the 2015 season that the Tornados entered their opponent’s red zone and did not come away with points.

Despite the final score, Brevard’s defense came out of the locker room with a vengeance. The Thunderbirds picked up 27 yards on a fake punt on their first possession. With that play excepted, the Tornados’ defense limited Southern Utah to 26 yards the first three times they held the ball and allowed the Thunderbirds to go just 4-of-9 on third down conversions throughout the contest.

The Thunderbirds’ offense began to pick up steam near the end of the first quarter, driving 58 yards in three plays to score their first touchdown 14:32 into the game. The Tornados came within 28 seconds of holding a Division I team scoreless in a quarter since the third quarter of Tornados’ 2011 contest at Gardner-Webb, a 34-17 win for the Bulldogs that represented Brevard’s second of eight games against Football Championship Subdivision opponents.

Southern Utah would go on to record touchdowns on each of its next seven possessions en route to the victory. The Thunderbirds finished the game with 560 yards of total offense, doing most of their damage on the ground and adding three touchdowns through the air from quarterback Ammon Olsen.

The game was played against the backdrop of an arm of the Cedar Mountains towering over the playing field at Eccles Coliseum, which was filled to 109 percent of capacity with an official attendance of 5,657. Prior to Saturday, the Tornados’ longest road trip came in 2009 with a 443-mile journey to Jacksonville, Florida in a win over Edward Waters. The Tornados also shattered their record for westernmost game in their first foray outside the Eastern time zone, surpassing a 1949 trip to face West Georgia in Carrollton, Georgia.

Saturday’s contest marked Brevard’s sixth consecutive season with at least one FCS opponent on the schedule. Southern Utah was playing its first opponent from the Division II ranks since a game against Fort Lewis (Colo.) two seasons ago and snapped a six-game losing streak outside Big Sky Conference competition.

Southern Utah earned its third win in five games dating back to last season and evened its record prior to putting its 1-0 conference mark on the line next weekend at Weber State. The Thunderbirds were led by 195 yards through the air from Olsen. Malik Brown rushed for 91 yards and two scores, while Levi Te’o, the cousin of former Notre Dame standout linebacker Manti Te’o, added 90 yards and a score. The Thunderbirds rushed for 365 yards on the evening, the most the Tornados have surrendered in a single game since the 2009 season.

Thunderbirds’ defensive end James Cowser finished with 1.5 tackles for loss, leaving him 7.0 away from setting the all-time FCS career record. Brevard’s Jason Nieradka finished with a game-high 11 total tackles, while freshman defensive end Justice Smith set career highs with five tackles and 2.0 tackles for loss. Washington paced the Tornados’ offense with 59 yards, averaging 4.9 per carry, with Tyler Gregory chipping in 40 yards on the ground and 36 through the air.

Brevard will play its second South Atlantic Conference game next Saturday as the Tornados welcome Tusculum to Brevard Memorial Stadium. The Pioneers are 1-3 on the season and 0-2 in conference play after an overtime loss to Lenoir-Rhyne followed by a 38-31 defeat at the hands of Newberry. Kickoff between the Tornados and Pioneers is set for 4:00 p.m.

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