Southern Utah 2015 FCS Football Playoff Capsule

Southern Utah Thunderbirds
Big Sky


To many, Southern Utah has been the surprise team in the Big Sky. There were signs early when the Thunderbirds lost at Utah State by a score of 12-9. That game set the tone for the defense. Although they let South Dakota State score 55 points the following week, SUU held their next five opponents to seven points or fewer and led the way to an impressive seven game winning streak that included victories over Weber State, Cal Poly and Montana State.

2015 Record: 8-3, 7-1
Coach: Ed Lamb

Big Wins: 11/7 at Montana State (34-23), 11/21 Northern Arizona (49-41)
Bad Losses: 9/12 at South Dakota State (10-55), 11/14 at Portland State (23-24)

Many teams in the Big Sky boast pass happy offenses so it is quite impressive that Southern Utah ranks 12th in the FCS in pass defense. LeShaun Sims, Kyle Hannemann and Miles Killebrew lead the talented secondary. The relentless pass rushing of James Cowser does make it easier for the secondary to make plays. Cowser has eclipsed the ten sack mark for his third straight season. Many times there will be a defense that is solid and does not give up many yards, but they will not create turnovers. That is not the case with SUU. They have ballhawks all over the field. Linebackers Mike Needham and Matt Holley are just as big of threats to pick off a pass as anybody in the secondary. Needham is also a big hitter and has forced a handful of fumbles. This is a tough defense to crack as many teams in the Big Sky know all too well.

The Southern Utah offense has been efficient, but is seldom spectacular. But with the way the defense usually plays, Coach Ed Lamb just needs his offense to avoid turnovers, pick up a few first downs and take advantage of the opportunities the defense provides. Running back Malik Brown is an experienced senior who can move the chains. Levi Te’o and Jarom Healey are solid change of pace backs too. But senior quarterback Ammon Olsen carries most of the offensive pressure. He has done a solid job of keeping the turnovers down and completes about 60 percent of his passes. Justin Brown and Mike Sharp are dangerous and underappreciated receivers as well. At some point the Southern Utah offense will have to step up during the playoffs. And with a senior under center and some dangerous playmakers around him, they have the ability to do it.  

Statistical Leaders:
Rushing: Malik Brown, RB, 771 yards
Passing: Ammon Olsen, QB, 2,965 yards
Receiving: Mike Sharp, WR, 748 yards
Tackles: Miles Killebrew, S, 122
Sacks: James Cowser, DE, 11.0
Interceptions: Kyle Hannemann, DB, 4

2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 165.7 (55th in nation, 6th in conference)
Passing Offense: 254.1 (29, 6)
Total Offense: 419.8 (33, 7)
Scoring Offense: 33.7 (22, 6)
Rushing Defense: 180.9 (76, 7)
Pass Defense: 169.3 (12, 1)
Total Defense: 350.2 (36, 1)
Scoring Defense: 16.7 (11, 1)
Turnover Margin: 1.80 (1, 1)
Sacks: 2.20 (46, 4)
Sacks Allowed: 2.50 (82, 11)

Recent Playoff Appearances:
2013    First Round    Lost to Sam Houston State

*all team stats through 11/14


Playoff Central