Lumberjacks defeated by Montana State
In the second game of a four-game stretch that will likely decide the NAU football team’s season, the Lumberjacks could not find a way to get the victory. They fell to the No. 3 nationally-ranked Montana State (MSU) Bobcats 41–24, dropping the Lumberjacks’ record to 2–4, 1–3 in the Big Sky Conference (BSC).
“We’ve got to be more of who we are naturally,” said head coach Jerome Souers. “Today, they pushed us out of that position.”
NAU defeated the Bobcats in their two previous meetings but did not find any luck on this afternoon. MSU quarterback Denarius McGhee tore up the Jacks’ defense both through the air and on the ground, completing 18 of his 22 throws for 247 yards and three touchdowns while also racking up 39 rushing yards. The Bobcats also accumulated 277 yards rushing on the afternoon, led by running back Cody Kirk’s 142.
“When you’re not able to pressure him [McGhee], he’s able to run around,” Souers said. “When he was able to run around, he made some key plays. Bought himself time, we lost our discipline and he threw it over our head. That’s what a good quarterback does.”
The Lumberjack offense appeared to be out of sync through much of the game. Junior quarterback Cary Grossart completed 10 of 20 attempts for 249 yards and two scores. The running game was also virtually non-existent with sophomore running back Zach Bauman mustering just 37 yards on the ground.
“A lot of that is on me,” Grossart said. “MSU played well today and they showed some things I didn’t expect. I’ve just got to do a better job next week.”
The game started off on a high note for the Jacks as they got on the scoreboard first when Grossart found freshman tight end Dejzon Walker for a 32-yard touchdown pass. The throw was nearly intercepted by MSU, but slipped through a defender’s hands right into Walker’s waiting arms. The Bobcats went on to score 21 unanswered points before senior kicker Matt Myers booted a 41-yard field goal to cut the lead to 21-10. MSU tacked on another touchdown from running back Tray Robinson punching one in from a yard out, pushing the lead to 18 just before the half.
After the break, MSU took over possession and proceeded to slowly chew up the clock while adding to their lead with a six minute drive ending in a touchdown to make the score 34-10 when the extra point try was blocked. NAU trimmed the lead in half when sophomore cornerback Anders Battle picked off a McGhee pass and returned it 60 yards to paydirt.
“I wasn’t actually reading the quarterback, I was reading the receiver,” Battle said. “My coach told me everything I needed to know. I wouldn’t have done it without him.”
Following an MSU turnover deep in Lumberjack territory, Grossart connected with junior receiver Khalil Paden on a 79-yard touchdown pass, bringing NAU within 10 points at 34–24. But the Bobcats used another long drive resulting in a touchdown, essentially ending NAU’s comeback hopes.
“We were just making mistakes on both sides of the ball,” Battle said. “We’ve got to know our assignments and just execute.”
The Lumberjacks now turn their attention to the Montana Grizzlies, who come to Flagstaff on Oct. 22 for a Homecoming date. NAU has not defeated the Grizzlies in 14 straight attempts, although the past two engagements have gone down to the wire.