After losing 14 straight, and 23 of the past 25 to the Montana Grizzlies, the FCS No. 24 Northern Arizona Lumberjacks (3-1, 1-0 Big Sky Conference) defeated the No. 7 Grizzlies (3-1, 0-1 BSC) 34-16 on Sept. 28 in front of a sold-out crowd at the Walkup Skydome for their second-straight win in the series.
More than 12,000 roaring fans watched as the Lumberjacks forced three-Montana turnovers, all fumbles, and returned two for touchdowns. It was the third-straight game that their defense scored a touchdown and now have five touchdowns in that span.
Behind its defense and 158 all-purpose yards from senior running back Zach Bauman, NAU beat the Grizzlies for the second time in as many years, the first time since 1986-87, which was also the last time the Lumberjacks won in Flagstaff (’87).
Bauman finished with 118 yards rushing and moved into eighth place on the all-time Big Sky rushing list, passing Montana’s Lex Hillard and Chase Reynolds.
Bauman now has rushed for the century mark in two-straight games, and has rushed for that mark in all four career games versus Montana, the only team he’s accomplished that against.
The Chandler, Ariz. product finishes his career against the Grizzlies with 646 rushing yards, seven touchdowns, and 756 all-purpose yards.
NAU got the scoring going, and quickly with Bauman scoring from 41 yards and five yards out to give the Lumberjacks an early 14-0 lead.
The Lumberjacks held the total advantage 416-347. They held Montana to 55 yards rushing.
Their defense continues to get better and better, as it forced three turnovers and have forced all seven on the season in the last three games. They continue to score at will, with their fourth and fifth touchdowns of the season coming against the Grizzlies.
On fourth-and-goal, Grizzlies quarterback Jordan Johnson rushed to the right before Austin Hasquet forced a fumble at the 3-yard line. Linebacker Ryan Reardon would recover at the 5, and return it 95 yards to increase NAU’s lead to 21-3 in the second quarter.
Entering the third, the Grizzlies would receive the second-half kickoff, but nickel back Mike Dosen forced a Travon Van fumble and Marcus Alford returned it 22 yards for the defense’s second score of the game and give NAU its biggest lead at 28-3.
Montana would score its first touchdowns in the fourth as Johnson would connect with receivers Mitch Saylor (15 yarder) and Jordan Harper (nine yarder). At that point, NAU head a 34-16 lead.
Johnson completed 17-of-30 passes for 292 yards and Van led the team with 45 yards rushing.
16 different receivers in the game caught passes and finished with positive yards, including nine for the Grizzlies. Sean Haynes led Montana with three catches for 66 yards while Alex Holmes led NAU with 68 yards on seven catches, and also completed a pass for 25 yards to quarterback Kyren Poe on a trick play.
Poe had his best passing game of the year. Even though he didn’t throw a touchdown, Poe completed 22-of-30 passes for 242 yards and added 15 yards rushing.
The Lumberjacks will now travel for their next two games, starting on Oct. 5 against Montana State, then on Oct. 12 versus Sacramento State before returning home for Homecoming on Oct. 19.