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CEDAR CITY -- Southern Utah will look to continue its success at home and pull even in Great West Conference play when the T-Birds play their homecoming game Saturday against the North Dakota Fighting Sioux.
The T-Birds (2-4, 0-1 Great West) haven't lost at home this year, but are coming off a disappointing one-point loss at Cal Poly in a game that went down to the final play.
SUU football coach Ed Lamb said he thought the T-Birds were the better team Saturday against the Mustangs, but a missed extra point that would have tied the game with nine seconds to play and two costly turnovers in the first half undid the T-Birds.
Lamb said he expects the team to bounce back against the Fighting Sioux (3-3, 1-0 Great West).
"Typically in my short coaching career, we've always played best after losses," he said. "We require our guys to work extremely hard and so after a loss like that I think it heightens their resolve and so I expect them to play very well."
The T-Birds gave up five sacks against Cal Poly, two of which resulted in SUU turnovers. Senior offensive lineman Levi Mack said the key to SUU's pass protection this week is to push the line.
Lamb said the Fighting Sioux play strong, aggressive defense.
"They run to the ball really well; they've got high effort," he said. "To be a member of the North Dakota football team really means something in that part of the country."
Junior strong safety Joel Schwenzfeier leads the Sioux with 36 tackles and four interceptions, including three against FBS opponent Texas Tech in North Dakota's season opener. Schwenzfeier also had an interception in the 2008 game between the Sioux and the T-Birds.
"We've got to account for him on every play," Lamb said. "We've got to understand where he's at and don't let him make anymore plays than he's going to make."
Offensively for the Sioux, junior quarterback Jake Landry has thrown for 1,200 yards in six games this season, along with seven touchdowns and five interceptions, three of which came last week in a loss against defending NAIA National Champion University of Sioux Falls. UND sophomore wide receiver Ismael Bamba has accounted for nearly half of the Sioux's passing production with 577 yards and three touchdowns on 31 catches.
T-Bird junior cornerback Colin Pretlow will likely be responsible for covering Bamba most of the game. "I've just got to focus on my assignments, focus in on him, don't look in the backfield and get twisted up with all their play action and all that stuff," Pretlow said. "I just need to focus on beating him."
The defense had one of its better efforts against Cal Poly, giving up just 250 total yards. Pretlow said staying focused throughout the week is the key to the defense against North Dakota.
"(We've got to) come out this week and practice hard, focus in meetings; do everything right," he said. "They're a good team so we're going to have a good game on our hands."
Lamb said he thinks the homecoming atmosphere will help the T-Birds' focus.
"I know our campus community is excited about it," he said. "They've got some activities so I think it helps our guys to remember that there's a game on the line that other people care about the outcome as well as our guys."
Mack said the T-Birds will have added motivation playing in front of family and friends.
"For me personally, I've got friends and family who are going to be here so I want to put on a good show for them of course, but most importantly I want to put on a good show for my team," he said. "It's going to be a dog fight, that's for sure. I'm looking forward to it."
After his 12-catch, 170-yard performance against Cal Poly, junior wide receiver Tysson Poots, who is the reigning Great West Conference Offensive Player of the Week, is second on SUU's all-time record list in catches with 148 and yards with 2,125, needing just eight catches and 269 yards to become No. 1 in each category. He is already SUU's all-time leader in touchdown catches with 21, including one in each of the four games he's played in this year after missing the first two games with a foot injury.
The SUU receptions record is within Poots' reach on Saturday, considering he averages nine catches per game this year and has had at least 10 catches in his previous two games.
Kickoff for the T-Birds' 2009 homecoming game is set for 2 p.m. Saturday at Eccles Coliseum.