Bauman, Grossart go down as Jacks scorched by the Sun Devils
by Cody Bashore
Despite a fair amount of confidence entering their match up with the ASU Sun Devils (1–0), the Northern Arizona University (NAU) Lumberjacks (0–1) turned in a dreadful performance, falling 63–6.
While the loss was tough to stomach, it wound up even more costly as Walter Payton watch list member, junior running back Zach Bauman, left the game early in the second quarter after a devastating hit that left him stumbling as he returned to the sideline.
“Zach took a pretty good hit. He seemed fine later, but it’s not my job to assess that. We have a medical team that does that,” said head coach Jerome Souers.
Bauman caught a pass at the line of scrimmage from backup quarterback sophomore Chase Cartwright before taking the hit that left him motionless on the ground for a few seconds.
“We will not mess around with any kind of a potential head injury,” Souers said. “Kid made a great play on a screen pass and it was a major-league collision.”
Bauman’s injury actually would be the second of the day for the Lumberjacks’ starting backfield. First string quarterback senior Cary Grossart left the game with a knee injury after throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown by the Sun Devils’ Brandon Magee on the Lumberjacks’ first possession of the second quarter.
Grossart, whose knee was wrapped as he walked to the locker room postgame, could be seen having his leg worked on at the trainer’s table prior to an announcement that he would not return.
“We don’t believe Cary to be seriously injured. It’s something he’ll be able to rehab his way out of,” Souers said.
The injuries added to an already shorthanded Lumberjack offense, as the team’s leading returner at wide receiver also missed the game. Junior Ify Umodu was suspended for a violation of team rules, but is expected to be back for next week at UNLV.
Missing weapons on offense would not be NAU’s undoing, as the defense struggled to slow down ASU. After deferring to the second half at the opening coin toss, NAU saw ASU’s no-huddle offense cruise to 73-yard opening touchdown drive in only 3:38 minutes.
“Just their fast tempo, we got our calls in a little late at times,” said senior defensive end Jarret Bilbrey. “We kind of got confused there at the beginning, but we made adjustments and we came out and handled it a little bit better.”
The Lumberjacks countered going with a predictable Bauman-heavy offense, handing him the ball to open the game with an 11-yard-run. That first down would be one of only two for NAU’s starting offense.
After a play fake to Bauman that resulted in Grossart running out of bounds, NAU gave Bauman the ball the next three plays before punting.
ASU responded instantly, taking the ball 81 yards down the field in 2:33 for another touchdown and pushed the score to 14–0.
“They had some good schemes, some things we certainly were not prepared well for,” Souers said. “With their speed they kind of created some difficult match ups and some difficult scenarios for us.”
The Sun Devils repeated the process another four times before the Lumberjacks could get themselves on the board.
Finally it was a pair of PAC-12 departees, University California-Berkeley transfer Covaughn Deboskie-Johnson and University of Oregon transplant Nick Cole, that helped get the Lumberjacks on the board.
Deboskie-Johnson, filling in for an injured Bauman, broke off a 34-yard run and Cartwright hit Cole for a 20-yard touchdown reception on the ensuing play. However, nothing could come easy on the night for NAU as the PAT was blocked by ASU.
“I felt like after we settled down with a couple of the backups coming in, we really started to get some momentum going,” Cartwright said. “Coach called a great play and we made it work for a touchdown.”
In his first game for NAU, Deboskie-Johnson finished with 82 yards rushing on 15 carries and one catch for eight yards, but chose to label the end result a bit differently.
“I didn’t even know I had success. Success is winning, so I was just playing as hard as I can to try and get back up to that score and help us win,” Deboskie-Johnson said.
However, the loss did not take away Deboskie-Johnson’s enthusiasm for his new program.
“You know, I was excited. This is a big opportunity for me,” the senior running back said. “It’s my last year for me to be with my brothers. I consider this team my brothers, just like my brother [Ca'leve Deboskie] on this team.”
Despite what was the worst loss to the Sun Devils since a 1950 63–0 defeat, the Lumberjacks could redeem themselves next Saturday in Las Vegas with another chance to shock an FBS program.
“We’re Lumberjacks. We put on our steel toed boots and our hard hat every day. Tomorrow, that’s what we’re going to do,” Deboskie-Johnson said. “We’re going to look at these plays and forget about it and move on, not forgetting that bitter taste that’s in our throats for this next team.”
The Lumberjacks will take on the UNLV Rebels (0–1) at 7 p.m. Sept. 8 in Las Vegas. UNLV, who lost 41–16 at home to Big Sky newcomer Southern Utah last season, dropped its season opener at home Thursday night 30-27 in triple overtime to the University of Minnesota.