Northern Arizona football was waiting for 10 years to make the playoffs in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).
The Lumberjacks finally made it this season, posting a 9-2 overall record, and a 7-1 conference record, finishing second in the Big Sky.
It set up a home game versus the South Dakota State Jackrabbits of the Missouri Valley Conference on Nov. 30 in which the Jackrabbits were too much for NAU, defeating the Lumberjacks 26-7.
Both offenses started slow, going scoreless in the opening quarter.
NAU struck first on its second drive of the second quarter, a 5-play 73-yard drive capped off by a 6-yard touchdown from senior running back Zach Bauman.
Bauman finished his final collegiate game with 101 yards, his 25th 100-yard game of his career.
His counterpart, junior Zach Zenner, both of which are up for the Walter Payton Award, rushed 30 times for 249 yards, his third 200-yard and 12th 100-yard game of the season (13 games). Zenner also scored two touchdowns.
After Bauman’s score, which made him NAU’s career leader in points scored, Zenner and SDSU drove down to NAU’s 23 before Zenner rushed for 22 yards before fumbling the ball. Lumberjacks senior cornerback Anders Battle would recover the fumble in the end zone.
It was then NAU’s turn to drive down the field. Looking to go up at least 10 points, the Lumberjacks found themselves at SDSU’s 12-yard line for third-and-goal, but sophomore quarterback Kyren Poe’s pass was tipped and intercepted at the 13.
One play later and Zenner found himself with a 87-yard touchdown, tying the game at seven with 3:14 left in the half.
NAU finished with 301 yards of total offense, outgaining the Jackrabbits 248-56 in the pass game. Poe completed 16-of-27 passes for 216 yards.
The Lumberjacks were without head coach Jerome Souers, as he was recovering from back surgery. Defensive coordinator Andy Thompson filled in as interim head coach.
With his efforts, Bauman goes down as one of the greatest, if not the greatest player in NAU history. He finishes as the career leader in rushing yards, carries, all-purpose yards and points scored.
Not only is he one of the best in NAU history, but he’s also one of the best to play in Big Sky and FCS history.
Bauman ranks third all time in rushing yards in Big Sky history, and is only the ninth back to rush for 1,000 yards in four seasons in FCS history.
The Chandler, Ariz. native finishes with 5,132 yards rushing on 1,001 carries, an average of 5.1 per carry.
NAU will look on to next season, as they try to bounce back without 22 seniors, who are graduating. The Lumberjacks will begin spring camp sometime in February/March.