Close shave…

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 28, 2001


stumble by Thunderbirds


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Sports Editor

Southern Utah quarterback Dustin Randolph kept the Troy State defense guessing all day long during Saturday’s game.

Unfortunately, Randolph wasn’t around to see the finish.

The redshirt freshman, who rushed for 99 yards on the afternoon, took a shot from TSU’s Ben Waldrop and Shelton Felton on the Thunderbirds’ final possession of the game and left with a shoulder injury.

Back-up quarterback Chuck Henderson entered the contest with just under three minutes to play, but was sacked for a 14-yard loss on fourth down by Jimmy McClain and Jose Gamboa.The sack allowed the Trojans to secure a 20-17 homecoming win over the Thunderbirds.

The Trojans’ offense, which enjoyed its biggest output of the season last week in a 44-31 win over Cal-State Northridge, was inept at times against the Thunderbirds. Quarterback Brock Nutter threw for 135 yards, but was sacked six times during the game and the Trojans finished with only 24 yards total on the ground. Senior running back Demontray Carter had 164 yards rushing last week, but was held to 22 yards on 17 carries Saturday.

"Offensively, I don’t know," said TSU head coach Larry Blakeney. "We couldn’t get 11 to play at one time all day long. It was a misfire here, a misfire there, quarterback one time, offensive line one time…there’s a lot of things we’ve got to work on. Thankfully, we were able to salvage a win today."

However, Carter did have a 94-yard kick return after Southern Utah had taken a 10-7 lead with 11 minutes in the second quarter. The senior broke containment and went down the left sideline untouched for the score.

Southern Utah’s option attack hindered the Trojans’ offense as well. The Thunderbirds ground game, which totalled 231 yards, kept Nutter and the ‘Trojan Spread’ on the sidelines, holding almost a 12 minute advantage in time of possession. Much of that time was accumulated on the visitors’ first scoring drive, which took 8:12 off the clock in the first quarter and resulted in a Jay Gaynor 2-yard touchdown run, tying the game up at 7-7. Troy State had took the lead initially on a 27-yard pass from Nutter to Thomie Venisee.

"They’re pretty good running football team and its a good thing they weren’t good at passing the ball to or we would’ve been in deep trouble," said Blakeney.

Randolph completed just one pass in nine attempts for six yards.

The Trojans led 13-10 at the half and it stayed that way until the beginning of the fourth quarter. After a punt by TSU’s Roger Ridgeway set the Thunderbirds back to inside the 10, Damien Coleman recovered a fumble by Gaynor to set Troy State up at the 19 yard line. Nutter hit Venisee and Heyward Skipper with back-to-back passes, moving the ball to the 3-yard line. Two snap’s later, Skipper broke free in the left endzone for a touchdown catch from Nutter.

Rayshun Reed picked off a Randolph pass at the TSU 25-yard line on Southern Utah’s next possession, but Joe Young broke through the Trojans’ offensive line to sack Nutter, causing a fumble. Tonga Mounga recovered for the Thunderbirds and it took Randolph and the offense just six plays to find the endzone, pulling closer to the Trojans’ lead at 20-17 with still 4:02 left.

TSU was forced to punt again, giving the ball back to the Thunderbirds at their own 41-yard line with 3:16 remaining. Chris Williams ran for four yards on first down, but then Randolph had to leave the game with the injury. Henderson came in as relief and fired a pass out in the flat, intended for Williams, but TSU linebacker Jimmy McClain stepped in front for the interception.

But McClain was unable to hold onto the ball with a sure touchdown in front of him.

McClain got a little redemption on the play that followed though.

On fourth and six, the senior made the initial hit on Henderson and he and Gamboa finally dropped the Thunderbirds’ quarterback at his own 31-yard line.

"It was a big play," said McClain. "I knew I had to do something to make up for the dropped interception. Me and Jose just got in on the sack and gave the ball back to Demontray."

Carter and the offense took over with 2:02 left and ran the clock out.

The Trojans travel to play No. 14 Maryland next week in College Park.