The No. 23 FCS-ranked Northern Arizona University Lumberjacks (2-1, 0-0 Big Sky Conference) used a big lead to survive a late, fourth-quarter rally to defeat the South Dakota Coyotes 22-16 on Sept. 21 in their home opener.
The Lumberjacks were up 19-0 heading into the final quarter, but gave up a couple of big throws, as the Coyotes (pronounced KAI-YOTES, not KAI-YO-TEES) inched their way to a six-point margin before finally losing their second game of the season.
After falling behind by 19 with 12 minutes to spare, the Coyotes finally got on the board to start the fourth with a 24-yard field goal from Miles Bergner to cut the NAU lead to 16-3.
After NAU made it 22-3 with a field goal of its own, South Dakota used a five-play, 75-yard drive and a 12-play, 91-yard drive to score 14 points and cut it to six with 2:54 to play.
Quarterback Josh Vander Maten ran it in from the two for the first score, then connected with Nick Meyer from six yards out for the second score.
Vander Maten finished with 200 yards through the air and added 63 rushing yards. South Dakota finished with 284 yards of total offense.
NAU cornerback Anders Battle got the scoring started for the Lumberjacks, intercepting Vander Maten and returned it for a 49-yard touchdown. NAU failed on the 2-point conversion to make it 6-0 in the first. It was the second straight game that the Lumberjacks scored on defense. NAU had two pick-sixes last week versus UC-Davis.
The defense led the charge in the first half, not allowing South Dakota to earn a first down before halftime. The Coyotes only gained seven yards on 24 first-half plays and had -5 yards on 12 plays in the first quarter.
NAU finished the game with two takeaways, after Marc Thompson recovered Vander Maten’s fumble in the third quarter. The Lumberjacks now have four takeaways on the season.
After becoming the school’s all-time leader in rushing, senior running back Zach Bauman came out relieved about passing the record and went back to the Bauman that the Flagstaff students are accustomed to seeing. Bauman rushed for 151 yards and a three-yard touchdown. It was his first rushing score of the season, and first in the past seven games. It was also his first 100-yard game of the season and first since October of last season.
The touchdown was Bauman’s 38th of his career on the ground, and the 151 yards was Bauman’s 19th 100-yard game of his career. He continues to climb up the rushing charts in Big Sky history.
NAU gained 343 yards of total offense, led by quarterback Kyren Poe, who had his best “managed” game of the season. Poe passed for 154 yards and threw his second touchdown of the year, a 14-yarder down the middle to Dejzon Walker to make it 19-0 in the third.
Linebacker Austin Hasquet, defensive back Lucky Dozier, and lineman Steven Garcia all led the team with eight total tackles. Hasquet added one sack.
The home win was the Lumberjacks’ first since Oct. 20 of last season and snapped a two-game losing streak at the Walkup Skydome.
NAU will look for a three-game winning streak on Sept. 28 when it hosts rival Montana for Family Weekend. Montana has won 14 of the last 15 meetings with the Lumberjacks, which included 14 straight before NAU snapped that streak in 2012 in Montana.