Trailblazers return battle ax to T-Birds after defeat at home

The Trailblazers played their last football game of the season Nov. 18 against rivals Southern Utah University. Although the final game drew in a large crowd, the T-birds took home a 16-24 win and the battle ax. Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams will go head to head again against SUU Jan.18. Cora Mark | Sun News Daily

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The Utah Tech University football team lost the battle ax to in-state rivals Southern Utah University in the final game of the year Nov. 18.

The Battle of the Ax is a historical rivalry between Southern Utah University and Utah Tech University. It was revived in the 2022-2023 season where SUU claimed the ax first with a 31-17 win. Utah Tech avenged the loss six weeks later with a 48-36 victory, breaking a three-game losing streak against SUU. 

However, SUU reclaimed the ax after this season’s game with a final score of 24-16. This marked the fifth meet-up between the two schools. Utah Tech holds a 1-4 record against the Thunderbirds in its NCAA era.

Nygel Osborne, a freshman finance major from Inglewood, California, said he felt no extra pressure playing in a rivalry game and that he approached the game like any other.

“I take it week by week, day by day,” Osborne said. “I take every opponent the same, it doesn’t matter who you are. No matter what’s in front of me, I’m going to see it as the same, and I’m going to keep pushing and keep going.”

Osborne scored his first collegiate touchdown during the first quarter of the game against SUU. Later in the second quarter, he added another touchdown to his record. Throughout the night, he achieved 7 carries for a total of 60 yards.

Offensively, Utah Tech was able to move the ball through the air. They lead the game in passing yards with 227 yards. Kobe Tracy went 18 out of 37 on passing with a long of 33 yards to Daniel Thomason.

Rickie Johnson, a senior recreation and sports management major from Murrieta, California, led the game in receptions with five catches for 37 yards. Johnson said offensively, they didn’t execute the gameplay as well as they hoped.

“I feel like we just left some plays out there,” Johnson said. “I feel like there’s some things that we could have done better, but how it ended is how it ended and it can’t be changed now.”

Johnson concludes his collegiate football career here at Utah Tech with 2,057 receiving yards, which is the second all-time in program history. He holds the school record for career receptions with 158 and finished seventh all-time in touchdown catches with 17. 

Head coach Paul Peterson said in an interview with Rod Zundel for SportsVision that he appreciates the seniors for their hard work and playing tough all year.

“I think that they set the tone and are the builders of our program,” Peterson said. “They’re the glue that kept us together when it was hard, and we didn’t quite have the record that we needed, but we’re doing everything else in the right way to build this program.”

Peterson said the future looks bright as the team is filled with fresh young talent. He said most of their core guys are returning next season and that their entire offensive and defensive line is eligible to come back.

Including the last loss against SUU, the Trailblazers finished the season 2-9 and eighth in the United Athletic Conference.