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First look at the Southern Utah Thunderbirds

What to expect from the Big Sky opponent

Southern Utah v BYU Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats return home with an 0-2 record after a disappointing trip to Houston. Going back to last season, Arizona is now riding a five game losing streak. This week, they will host FCS opponent Southern Utah as they try to get their season on the rails.

Kickoff is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 15 at 8:00 p.m. MST. The game will air on the Pac-12 network.

First Look

  • 2018 Record — 0-2; Week 1 loss versus North Alabama (34-30), Week 2 loss at Oregon State (48-25)
  • Key Offensive Players — Chris Helbig (QB), James Felila (RB), Ty Rutledge (WR), Zach Larsen (C)
  • Key Defensive Players — Chinedu Ahanonu (LB), Kyle Hanneman (Safety), Jalen Russell (CB)
  • Returning Starters — 10

The Stats

  • 2018 Offense: 27.5 points per game, 510 yards per game
  • 2018 Defense: 41 points allowed per game, 601.5 yards allowed per game
  • 2017 Record: 9-3; Conference record: 7-1, Co-Big Sky Conference Champions

Like the Wildcats, the Thunderbirds enter Week 3 looking for their first win of the season. They’re coming off a Week 2 loss at Oregon State where they allowed 649 total yards. However, they did account for 488 yards of total offense. Granted, much of that came in garbage time when the game was out of reach.

The good news for Southern Utah is their offense will face an Arizona defense that is currently struggling in all facets of the game. Through two weeks, SUU quarterback Chris Helbig is completing 68.6% of his passes and has recorded 656 yards for four touchdowns and no interceptions.

Despite an 0-2 record, Helbig has been doing a tremendous job against opposing defense which does not bode well for Arizona. He is not only efficient in terms of completions, he also does a great job of spreading the ball around. Southern Utah has had 10 and 11 players record at least one catch in their first and second games, respectively.

A lot of the passing success can be attributed to the talented and experienced offensive line. Center Zach Larsen earned third-team all-FCS honors last season. He along with tackle Marquez Tucker and guard PJ Nu’usa were selected as preseason all-conference players.

A strong line also helps the running game which is where you’ll see a good rotation between James Felila and Jay Green Jr. The wide receivers could also get involved in the running game as Ty Rutledge and Frank Harris III may be used in jet sweep plays.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Thunderbirds have had a tough start to the year. They’ve allowed 34 and 48 points while allowing 554 and 649 yards in their first two contests, respectively. They return three key contributors from last season’s co-Big Sky championship team in Chinedu Ahanonu (LB), Kyle Hanneman (Safety) and Jalen Russell (CB).

Depending on the severity of Khalil Tate’s ankle injury, Saturday could end up being another tough day in the office for the Thunderbirds.