CEDAR CITY, Utah -- As moral victories go in college football, there are not many.
Western Oregon's 17-10 loss to Southern Utah on Oct. 4 at Eccles Coliseum might qualify, but not according to WOU coach Duke Iverson.
"That's a game that we should have won," said Iverson, whose team took a step up in competition in playing an NCAA Division I-AA team on the road. "Our defense played an outstanding game against a dangerous offense, but we didn't score enough points for them. It's a tough loss to take."
Western Oregon's defense held Southern Utah to 300 yards in total offense and kept them off the scoreboard in the second half in front of 4,983 fans.
The Thunderbirds led 17-7 at the halftime break, but the Wolves could only manage a field goal after intermission in falling to its third consecutive loss. WOU is now 2-3 on the season. Southern Utah improved to 2-3.
The Thunderbirds scored first with 6:21 to go in the first quarter on a 1-yard run by quarterback Casey Rehrer. A 57-yard pass play from Rehrer to Andy Hadfield set up the run, and was the only really productive play of the drive. Southern Utah added to their lead early in the second stanza on 2-yard run by Mike Culpepper, making it 14-0.
But the Wolves answered with an impressive 11-play, 81-yard drive that was capped by a 1-yard plunge by Ivan McCrae.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Wolves successfully recovered an onside kick. But interference was ruled on the play, giving the Thunderbirds great field position. That eventually resulted in a 39-yard field goal by Steve Pulver, making the halftime count, 17-7.
Western moved the ball well at times in the second half, but Andrew Keippela's 22-yard field goal was all they had to show for it.
The Wolves had the ball for a final drive of the game, starting with the ball at their own 35-yard line with 2:34 to play. A fourth-down pass completion of 11 yards from Ryan Thorson to Brad Satran kept the drive alive, but a similar play a few moments later on fourth down was broken up by SUU cornerback Allen Jacobson to seal the game.
Thorson, the redshirt freshman in his third start, finished 16 of 41 for 131 yards and had one interception. Michael Ramirez led the running game with 79 yards, while McCrae chipped in 42.
Mike Hinshaw had five catches for 25 yards, all in the first half before leaving with an ankle injury. Satran had three catches for 45 yards.
Senior punter Lucas Taroli had a big night in the battle for field position, booming 10 punts for an average of 44.4 yards.
Western will play the middle contest of a three-game road trip on Saturday Oct. 11, traveling to UC Davis for a 6 p.m. contest.