Southern Utah University’s offense was firing on all cylinders in week one, but do the new look Thunderbirds have enough spark to outlast a Utah defense that didn’t quite live up to expectations in the Swamp? If junior QB Justin Miller has anything to say about it, this won’t be a cakewalk for the Utes.
Miller (6’3”, 210 lbs), was about as good as you could ask for during last week’s beat down over St. Thomas - Minnesota, completing 23 of 35 passing attempts for 364 yards and three touchdowns and no interceptions. This all comes off a 2021 campaign that saw the gunslinger throw for 2,416 yards, but an abysmal 9:13 TD to INT ratio. The Highland, UT native wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school as a two-star prospect and walked on with the Thunderbirds before finding himself in the starting roll in 2020. Despite good arm strength, the junior has struggled to consistently hit his intended targets but with a new coaching staff behind him, his ceiling is quite high, especially when conference play finally kicks off.
Much like the Utes, the Thunderbirds are likely to utilize a “by comittee” approach at running back, but leading that charge will be junior Isaiah Williams (6’1”, 220 lbs), who made the most of his 5 touches in his season debut, gaining 41 yards. Seniors Elijah Burns (5’11”, 210 lbs) and Bobby Cole (5’9”, 200 lbs) are utilized more in red zone packages and short yardage situations, creating a three-headed monster that should force Utah’s offensive line to remain on their toes.
Downfield, the dynamic duo of junior wide receiver Isaiah Wooden (5’9”, 170 lbs) and sophomore tight end Mata’ava Ta’ase (6’3”. 255 lbs) will be forced to contend with Utah’s secondary after combining for 10 receptions, 238 yards, and three TDs in week one. Considering SUU’s pass-heavy approach on offense, keeping these two contained will be crucial as they’ve clearly established themselves as top targets for Miller.
Unfortunately for Utah, this tune-up game likely won’t give them ample opportunity to work on their porous rush defense that gave up the victory to Florida in week one, but it should give players deeper in the depth chart a chance to show off.