After the 2012 season, the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks, of the FCS Big Sky Conference, finished either No. 1 or 2 in eight of 13 major team defensive categories, including second in scoring defense (23.6 points per game), second in total defense (342.5 yards per game), and first in pass defense (203.7 yards per game).
Every year, each program loses players to graduation or the NFL, but the 2013 is a rarity for NAU. Not only did much of its whole defensive squad return, but nine of 11 starters made it back, only losing defensive lineman Jarrett Bilbrey and cornerback Devin Willis.
All around the Big Sky took notice, naming the Lumberjacks D best overall defense and best pass defense in preseason predictions. NAU’s secondary was also named best secondary.
Those predictions would be answered, five games into the season.
Thus far, the Lumberjacks are 3-2 and 1-1 in conference play. In the same 13 categories, NAU is either No. 1 or 2 in seven of them this season.
The biggest number for the defense has been six. The Lumberjacks have scored six times on defense, one more than their offense. If you take away their game versus the Arizona Wildcats in the opening week, those numbers just stand out even more.
The defense has scored all six times and have forced all eight of its turnovers (4 INT, 4 FUM) in the past four games.
Six games remain, and the question is whether or not this squad can keep it up?
With cornerback Anders Battle and safety Lucky Dozier, both of whom were named to First-Team honors in 2012, there’s no reason for a let up.