CEDAR CITY, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – For the second straight year, Southern Utah will travel up north to face one of the top teams in the state.
Last year, the Thunderbirds came up to Salt Lake City to battle the Utes and had a pretty good turnout, and they’re expecting the same Saturday at BYU.
“We expect the same at LaVell Edwards stadium this year,” said Southern Utah athletic director Doug Knuth. “We expect a really good showing of T-Birds. There will be a little dot of red in that blue stadium. But this is great for our fans, great for our alumni, great for the university.”
It’s definitely good for the university, financially, because this is kind of money game for them.
“This is not kind of a money game,” said SUU head coach DeLane Fitzgerald. “If we show up on Saturday at 1:00, they stroke us a check for half a million dollars for being there. So not kind of a money game, it is a money game. It pays the light bill and the water bill for an entire calendar year.”
This is the second straight week Southern Utah is playing a Power-5 team. Last week, the Thunderbirds traveled to Tempe to take on Arizona State, and narrowly lost 24-21.
It’s obviously not a level playing field when it comes to FBS teams, and FCS teams.
“You play a powerhouse program like BYU, like Utah, like Arizona State, their facilities are incredible, their budgets are amazing, their staff and everything else is ten times what we have,” Knuth said.”
“Utah, BYU and Arizona State spend almost as much, and this is a fact,” Fitzgerald said. “They spend almost the exact same thing on strength and conditioning and nutrition as we spend on the entire football budget. And I’m talking about our salaries, our travel, our equipment, stadium renovation, everything.”
But that doesn’t mean that SUU is just going to roll over. They’re coming to play. They’ve done their homework and they know their opponent.
“We know everything about the Cougars now, right down to what they eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner each day,” Fitzgerald said. “We know everything about the Cougars. Can we close the gap, the talent gap and size gap between now and Saturday? I don’t know, but we’ll try.”
“When you step on the field, we compete as hard as anyone,” Knuth added. “That doesn’t mean we’re going to win, but we’re going to compete as hard as anyone.”
Coach Fitzgerald knows his team has to play a near-perfect game to stay competetive, and BYU has to make some mistakes. The Cougars made plenty last week in an unimpressive 14-0 win over Sam Houston, who was playing its first game as an FBS school.
“If BYU will play as poor as they did last week on offense, it will help a whole lot,” Fitzgerald said with a laugh. “The fact that they have good players and good coaches, we expect them to play well on offense. They’re already playing well on special teams and on defense. We’ve got to put together a monumental effort. It’s got to be a monumental three hours on Saturday for us to have success.”
BYU and Southern Utah will kick off at 1:00 p.m Saturday in Provo.