The Northern Arizona Lumberjacks (6-2, 4-1 Big Sky) are coming off a road win in a rather defensive battle against the Cal-Poly Mustangs, and now are set to return home to face North Dakota on Nov. 2, looking to continue their win streak.
NAU faced Cal-Poly on Oct. 26 and came away with a hard-fought 17-13 victory.
The play of the game came with 14:44 remaining. After a Bobby Zalud 22-yard field goal gave the Mustangs a three-point lead, Lumberjacks cornerback Marcus Alford returned the ensuing kickoff 96 yards for the game-winning score.
Despite losing the turnover battle 4-2, NAU made the right stops at the right time, especially since the Mustangs held the advantage in total yards 352-277.
Facing a fourth-and-1 on the NAU 35, the Mustangs felt they could keep the drive alive and go in for the go-ahead score.
Mustangs quarterback Dano Graves attempted a quarterback sneek, but Lumberjacks linebacker Ryan Reardon did his best Troy Polamalu impersonation, timed the snap, and leaped over the center, getting to Graves for the loss.
Cal Poly had one final chance to score, but Lumberjacks linebacker Austin Hasquet ended the drive by picking off Graves at the Mustangs’ 49 with just over two minutes left.
NAU’s Zach Bauman finished with 91 yards rushing, after coming in as the Big Sky leader in yards per game.
Behind him was Cal Poly’s Kristaan Ivory, who had just a single rush for three yards.
Chase Cartwright finished with 177 yards through the air and connected with Patrick Baldenegro for a 3-yard touchdown to give the Lumberjacks a 10-7 lead with 47 seconds left in the first half.
The Lumberjacks will return home looking for a four-game winning streak as they welcome North Dakota to the Walkup Skydome.
North Dakota (1-4, 2-6 Big Sky) is the complete opposite as NAU, not just record wise, but also in streaks.
The Lumberjacks lost their first game, have their win streak and have won six of their last seven games. North Dakota on the other hand, won their first game and have lost six of their last seven games.
NAU is averaging 27.2 points per game, while North Dakota has allowed 33.6 per game.
The Lumberjacks are fourth-best in the conference with 11 takeaways, while North Dakota is the conference-worst with 17 giveaways.
NAU, who’s ranked No. 14 in the FCS this week, won in a shootout in North Dakota last year, 45-38.
The Lumberjacks gained 568 yards of total offense, while holding North Dakota to 111 rush yards compared to their 205. Bauman led the way with 176 yards on 28 carries while former Lumberjack quarterback Cary Grossart threw for 363 yards and four touchdowns, one of which to Ify Umodu, who finished with 118 yards receiving and continues to be sidelined this season with an injury.
Bauman enters this game averaging 184 yards rushing in his last three. The senior running back needs 25 yards to become the ninth player in FCS history to rush for 1,000 yards in four seasons.