Northern Arizona sits at 2-1 after a 22-16 home-opening win versus the South Dakota Coyotes on Sept. 21, but like for most of the season, the Lumberjacks have relied on their defense as the offense continues to struggle.
The No. 22 Lumberjacks (2-1, 0-0 Big Sky Conference) allowed seven yards on 24 plays in the first half against South Dakota, and was up 19-0 after three quarters before the Coyotes made a rally in the final quarter.
Just like the previous game, the defense was key in a Lumberjacks’ win. Senior cornerback Anders Battle scored on a 49-interception return for the game’s first points. South Dakota only ran 12 plays and racked up -5 yards in the opening quarter.
In three games, the defense has scored just as much as the offense, three touchdowns. On Sept. 14, NAU had two pick-sixes in a 21-10 victory over UC-Davis.
Sophomore Kyren Poe continues to struggle as he threw for 151 yards on 17-of-32 passing with one score and one pick against South Dakota. The lone bright spot came from senior running back Zach Bauman.
After becoming the program’s all-time rushing leader, Bauman ran for 151 yards against the Coyotes and also scored his first touchdown of the season. It was Bauman’s first 100-yard game and first score since October 2012.
Sept. 28 will be Family Weekend for the NAU campus, and none better than to host long-time rival, the No. 7 Montana Grizzlies (3-0, 0-0 BSC).
Montana has outscored its opponents 132-37 this season, averaging 44 points per game. The Grizzlies are coming off a 47-17 win on Sept. 21 against Division-II Panhandle State.
The Grizzlies have dominated this series since head coach Jerome Souers came to NAU 16 years ago, but it may be turning the Lumberjacks’ way. Montana won the first 14 match ups of the Souers’ era before the Lumberjacks defeated the Grizzlies last season 41-31 in Missoula. It was the Lumberjacks first win in Montana since 1986.
Bauman rushed for a career-high 253 yards on 29 carries and three touchdowns. He scored on the game’s first play from 75 yards 11 seconds into the game.
NAU found itself down 17 before scoring 34 unanswered points to take a 41-24 lead in the fourth quarter.
Grizzlies’ sophomore quarterback Trent McKinney finished with 199 yards on 20-of-34 passing and three interceptions, also rushing for 49 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown in the first to give Montana a 10-point lead.
Souers previously spent time with Montana from 1986-97 as a defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator. During his tenure at NAU, Souers has won 86 games, putting him second all time for Big Sky coaches.