Big Sky leaders face off
The conference’s No. 1 offense and No. 1 ranked defense meet this Saturday in Bozeman, Montana. NAU enters the game with the top offense in the Big Sky Conference (BSC), accumulating 449.8 yards per game, while the Montana State defense is top in the league, allowing just 300.2 yards per game.
The Lumberjacks are the No. 3 ranked defense in BSC, allowing 352.4 with the Bobcats fourth offensively, racking up 428.3 yards. The Lumberjacks have recorded 400 or more yards of total offense in three straight games.
NAU is not short of talent with sophomore running back Zach Bauman and junior quarterback Cary Grossart. Bauman is one of the most talented running backs in the conference, averaging 119 rushing yards per game, good for second in the Big Sky. Grossart ranks as one of the top three QB’s in the BSC with a passing efficiency of 160.4 and averages 255.4 yards per contest.
MSU’s No. 1 ranked defense is led by line backer Jody Owens who has 51 total tackles on the season (8.5 tackles per game average), defensive tackle Zach Minter with 3.5 sacks on the season and free safety Steven Bethley with two interceptions on the season.
Despite a league leading offense and seemingly talent-stacked defense, NAU sits in seventh place with a 1–2 BSC record. In the upcoming game, the Lumberjacks hope to change their fortune and gain a win.
“Our kids bounce back. We have quality people in our program and they are motivated and determined. Our expectations have bounced back,” said NAU head coach Jerome Souers. “I’m proud of the way they have approached the game; they are professional about it and they know the things they have to improve.”
Montana State, ranked third nationally in the Football Championship Subdivision, enters this weekend riding a five-game winning streak. The Bobcats sit atop the Big Sky uncontested with a conference record of 3–0, but face the Lumberjacks, who have a slight advantage.
“We are looking forward to the challenge against this team. Having past success gives you a boost going into it,” Grossart said. “Obviously they are having a great season but hopefully we can give them a good game and get a win out of it.”
The Bobcats only league loss in 2010 was against the Lumberjacks, 30–7. NAU has beaten MSU two consecutive times and has won the previous two meetings in Bozeman.
“We beat them last year at our house,” Bauman said. “The year prior we beat them at their house I think they’ll have a chip on their shoulder.”
NAU leads the all-time meetings with Montana State 24–20. The series has provided some tight games over the last 14 meetings, with nine decided by a touchdown or less and four decided by four points or less.
If this weekend’s game is anything like the past meeting of NAU versus MSU, it promises to be an exciting one as the league’s top offense and defense face off.