Southern Utah spoils Homecoming for football
By HEATHER KENNEDY
GREELEY – A strong second-half defensive effort by the Northern Colorado football team couldn't quite make up for two touchdowns by Southern Utah in the final 1:02 of the first half as the Thunderbirds spoiled the Bears Homecoming, 27-21.
The Bears held the Thunderbirds to just 37 rushing yards in the game and 16 in the second half, a team that averaged 147.5 per game entering Saturday. The defending national player of the week, Rayesean Martin, was held to just 17 rushing yards on seven carries.
Northern Colorado struggled offensively in the first half, gaining just 78 yards, but almost matched that in its first drive of the second half, marching 75 yards down the field for a touchdown that was capped by a one-yard rush by senior quarterback Tim Tancik (Denver).
"It's not about whether the defense plays well or the offense plays well, it's a team game," Head Coach Earnest Collins Jr. said. "I don't care what happens -- whether the offense isn't going, the defense can stop them. If the defense can't stop them, the offense is supposed to score and that's what we've got to continue to work on. We did some decent things on defense, but not decent enough because they put points up on the board."
The team ended the day with 273 yards of offense, gaining 195 after halftime. A majority of those yards came from senior running back Tromaine Dennis (Jersey City, N.J.), who rushed for 34 on 11 carries and caught seven passes for a career-high 94 yards, giving him a total of 128 yards.
Senior wide receiver Jace Davis (Lone Tree, Colo) caught the team's first touchdown pass of the day from 19 yards out to give the Bears the early 7-3 lead. He ended the day with five catches for 62 yards.
Junior wide receiver Dimitri Stimphil (Homestead, Fla.) caught the other touchdown pass, a five-yard strike from Tancik with 58 seconds left in the game. He had six receptions for 50 yards. Tancik was 26 for 43 for 269 yards, but threw two interceptions and was sacked four times.
The defense was once again led by junior linebacker Max Flores (Yuba City, Calif.) with 11 tackles and his first career interception. Fellow junior linebacker Leilon Willingham (Denver) was also in double figures with 10 tackles.
The Bears combined for 11 tackles for loss on the afternoon and both junior nose guard Lexington Smith (Denver) and senior defensive end Kendall Gregory-McGhee (Aurora, Colo.) each had a quarterback sack.
"We've had too many turnovers, that's the bottom line," Collins said. "Turnovers and penalties, they're killing us and we've got to get it fixed."
Northern Colorado turned the ball over three times, two interceptions and a fumble and those three turnovers turned into 10 Southern Utah points. The Bears were also whistled five times for 42 yards.
The Bears return to action next Saturday at Sacramento State. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. (MT). The Hornets are 1-3 on the season and play at Weber State later this evening.
"We didn't win this game today because we didn't play fully as a team and that's it," Collins said. "All I know how to do is go out on the field tomorrow and keep working. That's the only thing I know how to do and that's what I'm going to do."