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Oregon State Football Opponent Preview: Southern Utah

The Thunderbirds will be looking to put a poor season opener behind them and get back to their 2017 form.

Southern Utah v Oregon Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Southern Utah Thunderbirds:

  • 2017-18 Record: 9-3 (7-1 Big Sky)
  • Current Record: 0-1 (34-30 Loss to North Alabama)
  • Head Coach: Demario Warren
  • Total Offense 2018 Ranking: 11th in FCS (532.0 YPG)
  • Total Defense 2018 Ranking: 94th in FCS (554.0 YPG)

Tale of the Tape

When you think of powerhouse football programs, Southern Utah probably doesn’t come to mind. Even among FCS schools, Southern Utah has struggled to break into the top echelon of football programs, having a record of 236 wins, 298 losses and 10 ties since their founding in 1963. Joining the Big Sky Conference in 2012, Southern Utah began to find some success on the gridiron, winning the conference title in 2015. However, the Thunderbirds have yet to find any success in the FCS playoffs. They have appeared in the FCS playoffs 3 times, losing in all 3 appearances.

Last year, many fans believed that the Thunderbirds were about to break through and make a run at the FCS crown. After a 77-21 beat-down at Oregon to open the 2017 season, Southern Utah won their next 2 games handily. After getting destroyed by Sacramento State, the Thunderbirds would go on to win the remainder of their games in the regular season, winning the Big Sky and getting a first round bye in the FCS playoffs. However, the Thunderbird run would end unexpectedly, as Weber State would dominate the Thunderbirds in a 31-13 loss. After an off-season dominated by expectations and high hopes, the Thunderbirds laid a massive egg in a rare home opener, losing 34-30 to a North Alabama team that had been playing in Division 2 the previous season.

Player To Watch

Chris Helbig (Quarterback, Jr.)

A former walk-on out of Colorado, Chris Helbig has waited a long time to get onto the field. And he played very well against UNA, passing for 316 yards and 2 TD’s, while also completing 28 of his 38 pass attempts. With Oregon State struggling defensively, expect another big game from the Junior QB.

Biggest Question Mark

How will the Thunderbird defense hold up against an improved Oregon State offense?

By a show of hands, who expected the Beavers to put up 31 points on Ohio State last Saturday? Yeah, me neither. And neither did the Thunderbirds, who will not be happy about it. The Thunderbirds allowed over 550 yards of offense and 34 points to a team that was in a lower division only a year ago, while the Beavers put up almost 400 yards of offense on a top 10 defense in the country. With a high powered offense that almost assuredly will score points on an Oregon State defense that got demolished in the Horseshoe, the Thunderbirds will have to hope for some stops against the Beavers offense if they want to pull off the upset. Otherwise, Southern Utah might end up on the wrong side of a shoot-out.

History With Oregon State

The Thunderbirds and the Beavers have never played each other. The Thunderbirds last trip to the Beaver State was last year, when they ran into a buzz saw in Autzen Stadium, losing to the Oregon Ducks in a 77-21 blowout. The Thunderbirds have only beaten a FBS opponent once, beating UNLV 41-16 in 2011.


The Beavers will be flying out to Reno to play Nevada for their final non-conference game, before returning to Reser Stadium for their PAC 12 opener against Arizona the following week. The Thunderbirds will stay on the road for the next 2 weeks, playing another FBS match-up against Arizona before starting conference play against Northern Arizona.