Bauman rushes for 219, NAU tames the Bengals
Facing college football’s most prolific passing game, NAU football team held down the visiting Idaho State University (ISU) Bengals, defeating them 20-3 to even their record at 2-2, dropping ISU to the same record.
The victory was the Jacks fifth straight on Family Weekend and their seventh straight against the Bengals: NAU has not lost at home to ISU since 1984.
“We’re pleased to get back in the victory column in conference play,” said head coach Jerome Souers. “Coming out of Portland State and coming that close was a disappointment for us but I thought our guys bounced back.”
Sophomore running back Zach Bauman and junior running back Giovannie Dixon paced the Lumberjack offense, accounting for much of the yardage. Bauman finished the game with 218 rushing yards while Dixon piled up 83 yards on the ground. The two backs also split two touchdowns, manufacturing the only scores of the game for the NAU offense. Dixon, recognized by many as NAU’s change-of-pace back, carried the ball eight times finishing with a 10.4 yards per carry average.
The amount of touches by the combined two was an effort to keep the high-powered Bengal attack off the field.
“All week, we’ve been stressing the run[ning] game a lot,” Bauman said. “[With a] performance like that, I’ve just got to thank God [and] thank my offensive line. [The] coaches were trusting us with the ball in our hands. We had a great week of practice and I think it showed.”
Junior quarterback Cary Grossart was not as effective in the game, but did not necessarily have to be with the rushing attack as good as it was. The signal caller completed 11 of his 20 attempts for 149 yards but did not throw a touchdown pass. The top receiver for the Jacks was junior Khalil Paden, who hauled in four passes for 58 yards. Grossart was able to show his dual-threat ability as he escaped pressure and scrambled around numerous times, finishing with 36 rushing yards and also taking some big time hits in the process.
“Some of those holes opened up and I just took off,” Grossart said. “I definitely need to learn to hook-slide a little bit. I’m still learning so I kind of wanted to get out there and run around.”
NAU sacked ISU quarterback Kevin Yost 10 times while also recovering two fumbles: one at the goal line, scooped up by junior safety Taylor Patton, and another when senior defensive end Isaac Bond recorded one of his two sacks on Yost. Bond popped the ball loose on the play and fellow defensive lineman Blayne Anderson pounced on the recovery. Junior safety Taylor Malenfant also intercepted Yost on what was a promising Bengal drive midway through the second quarter.
“As a defense, we had been a little dry,” Bond said. “We knew we were going to get a chance to rush the passer and that’s we wanted to do and that’s what we did. When you hit the quarterback like that, it affects his throw a lot.”
After the two squads traded punts to open the game, NAU struck first when Bauman sprang to the outside and sprinted 59 yards to the end zone on NAU’s fifth play of the game. The Jacks extended the lead to 10-0 after a Matt Myers field goal from 34 yards away following the goal line fumble recovery. After another ISU punt, Dixon found a hole, stumbled a bit, but still managed to scamper 60 yards to stretch the lead to 17-0. The Bengals finally got on the board with a 41-yard field goal to make the score 17-3 going into halftime.
Following the break, NAU tacked on another field goal from Myers to pad the lead to 20-3. The second half, consumed by long drives and consistent play by both sides, came and went with neither team finding the end zone. The Jacks continued to pound away on the ground to chew up clock. The defensive bright spots shined through in the sluggish half, including the majority of the recorded sacks. The Jacks held the Bengals’ attack to 214 yards; 171 of them through the air. “I thought [defensive coordinator] Andy [Thompson] did a great job of sequencing [the game] and keeping them off balance,” Souers said. “We have a lot of respect for that offense.”
The Jacks get nearly two weeks to rest and prepare for their next opponent, the defending Football Championship Subdivision champion, the Eastern Washington Eagles. The bye week comes at a time when the Lumberjacks need to heal up some injuries and design a game plan to counter the surprisingly winless Eagles.
“This bye gives us a chance to get healed up, rested up and get ready for Eastern to come here in two weeks,” Bond said.