Utah Tech and Southern Utah meet up for the first time since 2010 on the gridiron, and for the first time since 1963 as conference opponents, as the Trailblazers hit the road to Cedar City on Saturday.
Saturday night’s contest will be the third time the two programs have faced off as NCAA opponents, and the first in 12 years, reigniting a long-dormant rivalry.
Southern Utah beat then-Dixie State 36-7 in 2009 and followed up with a 52-0 win in 2010.
The 1963 matchup occurred when both schools were junior colleges.
The Trailblazers were beaten by #12 Weber 44-14, as Weber’s defense stifled Utah Tech in the second half.
A 24-14 deficit quickly swelled into a 30-point defeat, dropping Utah Tech to 1-2.
“This is a fun week again,” said Utah Tech head coach Paul Peterson. “Preparing for Weber State — obviously being in-state rivalry, I guess you could say — it’s fun to have back-to-back to be able to play a team just up the street from us and is in the same conference as us. I think this is a rivalry that will be special for both communities for the time to come.”
“The special part about rivalry games, and again, this is just the start but it’s going to be something special, I believe, it doesn’t matter the records. It doesn’t matter, anything… I’m excited to get this started. I know coach Fitz up there is doing a good job with those guys.”
Don’t worry SUU fans, we’ll have your keys to the game tomorrow.
Kickoff in Cedar City is scheduled for 6 p.m.
Keep Kobe Tracy upright
This was arguably the top problem for Utah Tech on Saturday against Weber State.
Tracy was consistently knocked down and pressured. The Wildcats put Tracy on the turf on what felt like every dropback for the redshirt sophomore, and Weber had three sacks on the night.
The knockdowns eventually took their toll on Tracy.
After completing 16/32 passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, Tracy was just 3/15 in the second half.
On his last throw, Tracy skipped a pass and came up clutching his upper body.
Paul Peterson said Tracy is day-to-day.
“He got beat up pretty good. We’ll see if he can make it to the game on Saturday.”
Peterson noted that his team needs to shore up their protection of whoever is taking snaps against the Thunderbirds.
“I don’t think Kobe felt very comfortable back there for most of the game,” Peterson said. “Tip my hat to Weber, they had a really good game plan… I thought the second half Kobe just didn’t feel comfortable back there he took some big-time hits in the game too and tried to pop back up from most of them, so really keeping that quarterback clean.”
Southern Utah’s defensive front has been solid.
Edge rushers Francis Bemiy and Zach Strand booked the line, while Rylen Su’a-Filo and Payton Payne man the middle.
Strand is coming off a 1.5 sack game against Western Illinois, and was named WAC Defensive Player of the Week.
Joey Hobert early and often
In his first three games for the Trailblazers, Hobert has established himself as the go-to weapon for Peterson.
Hobert unofficially leads the FCS in receiving yards (467) and yards per game (157.7).
He also ranks 2nd in catches with 27 and tied for 4th in touchdowns with four.
Hobert leads the WAC in all four categories.
“He’s a new guy coming in the summertime so you’re just trying to see who he is. You saw what he could do in games in camp and when summertime started you saw him take on a leadership role with some of our workouts and be vocal. He’s obviously quick and shifty and you’re like ‘Okay this guy can play.’”
His play on the field earned a team captain position on Tuesday.
Hobert had his third straight 100-yard receiving game, hauling in ten catches for 123 yards and a 37-yard touchdown from Tracy.
Hobert’s 123 receiving yards was just above half of Utah Tech’s receiving yards against the Wildcats.
Against SUU, Damaje Yancey, Mitchell Price and the rest of the SUU secondary will have their hands full, especially if Tracy is available.
Shoring up the back end
Through SUU’s first three contests, the running game has struggled. Outside of the final two minutes on Saturday against Western Illinois and a season-opening win over St. Thomas, Southern Utah’s passing attack has been up and down.
It took a late 73-yard touchdown from Justin Miller to Isaiah Wooden to move SUU to 2-1.
Even then, the big play ability of Wooden, the reliable hands of Ethan Bolingbroke and the veteran presence of Miller can still present problems.
A week after forcing four interceptions — including a pair of pick-sixes — Utah Tech was gashed by Bronson Barron for 368 yards and four touchdowns. Utah Tech didn’t record a sack of Barron.
Ty MacPherson had a big day being lined up mostly against Colby Williams.
MacPherson burned Williams twice for long touchdowns and had six catches for 140 yards and three touchdowns.
Jacob Sharpe added another 116 yards and a touchdown.
The safety duo of Tyrell Grayson and Darrius Nash were solid, with Grayson nearly coming away with two interceptions and leading the team with 11 tackles.
The two will once again be relied upon this Saturday to slow Wooden and Co.
“I’m pumped for this game,” Peterson said. “Our guys are pumped for this game. We had a high-energy game last week and this is going to be just like that. Our guys are going to be flying around and we’ve got something to prove for sure.”
Sean Ellertson is a sports reporter for the St. George Spectrum & Daily News. To continue to support his work, please subscribe to The Spectrum. Follow Sean on Twitter @SeanEllertson.