Cedar City, Utah -- A week after a penalty by Southern Utah kicker Colton Cook cost the Thunderbird football team dearly in a loss to previously winless Weber State, Cook found redemption.
Cook drilled the game-winning 36-yard field goal with three seconds left in regulation to lead the T-Birds to a 30-27 upset victory over No. 1 FCS Eastern Washington Saturday afternoon at Eccles Coliseum, and giving SUU one of its biggest wins in school history.
"It felt good right off my foot," Cook said. "I knew right when I kicked it that it was good."
The Eagles had one last chance at thwarting SUU's upset bid, but fell short on trying to lateral the ball downfield. Fans and cheerleaders then joined the rest of the football team as the clock struck zero.
"It's a great victory for the team, fantastic to send the seniors off like they deserve," SUU Head Coach Ed Lamb said. "I couldn't be more pleased at the way they get to leave at their last game in our stadium."
Sorensen, who was playing in his final home game as a T-Bird, said the win meant a lot to the players who were desperate for a home win this season.
SUU had lost three straight home games — and the win was SUU's first conference win since joining the Big Sky this summer.
"It's so disappointing to play well at home every week and lose," Sorensen said. "The message that we had before the game was special, we had a senior step up and he just said ‘we need to leave a legacy, we've had a great career, but a disappointing season so we want to leave on a high note.' I think that gave us the extra boost, the extra motivation we needed today."
It felt good right off my foot. I knew right when I kicked it that it was good.
–Colton Cook on his game-winning field goal
Sorensen threw for a season-best 392 yards on 33-of-43 passing. The senior also threw a 21-yard game-tying touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to Fatu Moala, and also an interception in the third quarter.
Moala caught 10 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown, while C.J. Morgan caught six more passes for 100 yards. Mitch Jessop, one of SUU's top receivers entering the game, was held out with a minor foot injury, Lamb said.
Kyle Padron and Vernon Adams split time at quarterback for EWU. Padron finished the game 24-for-35, 223 yards and a touchdown, while Adams threw for 181 yards on 11-of-15 passing, a touchdown and an interception in a losing effort.
SUU opened the game about the best it has all season, starting with a 41-yard blocked punt for a touchdown by Miles Killebrew with 8:45 left in the first quarter.
Killebrew went virtually untouched on his way to the punter, who had to pick up a low snap and jumped in front of the punt. He was then all alone on his way to the end zone.
"I just knew if we gave 100 percent on the scheme that it would work and it ended up paying off," Killebrew said. "I was glad it worked in our favor and we were able to score off that because it gave us momentum."
The seven points off the play were the most SUU has scored in the first quarter all season long. The T-Birds scored a touchdown in the first quarter for the first time last week, but missed the extra point attempt.
SUU's LeShaun Sims then picked off Adams on EWU's ensuing drive, but Cook missed a 42-yard field goal to the left.
The Eagles then put Padron in, who answered the call with a quick six-play, 80-yard drive capped with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Nicholas Edwards with two seconds left in the first quarter to tie the game 7-7.
Both teams nailed two field goals apiece in the second quarter to help both teams remain tied 13-13 at halftime.
After a dismal start to the second half for SUU, EWU took its first lead of the game on 4-yard touchdown run by Demitrius Bronson, giving the Eagles a 20-13 lead with 11:32 left in the third quarter.
But given the nature of the shootout, SUU answered right back.
Lavell Ika capped off a quick nine-play, 87-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run, tying the game 20-20 at the 8:11 mark of the third quarter.
EWU answered that with an even quicker 73-yard drive in one minute, which resulted in an 18-yard Ashton Clark touchdown catch from Adams.
Each team would then turn the ball over in the red zone at least once, and neither team would score again until a 21-yard touchdown strike from Sorensen to Moala tied the game 27-27 with 7:01 left in the game.
EWU then drove down the field in attempt to regain the lead, but kicker Jimmy Pavel missed a 37-yard field goal by a hair to the left. The kick appeared to have been deflected at the line by an SUU player.
The T-Birds then moved the ball methodically down the field, capping it with Cook's game-winner with 3 seconds left in regulation.
SUU will now head on the road for its final two games of the season. SUU will travel to fellow Big Sky newcomer North Dakota next week.