Lumberjacks head to North Dakota for first time as Big Sky Conference foes
By Brian Gosset
Northern Arizona University (NAU) is coming off a bye week well rested and are ready to add on to their streak. The No. 16 ranked Lumberjacks (4–1, 2–0 Big Sky Conference) will seek their fifth-straight win when they face the University of North Dakota (3–3, 2–2) for the first time in 27 years, after North Dakota (UND) agreed to enter the Big Sky Conference this season.
After NAU was scorched in its first game against ASU, 63–6, the Lumberjacks were able to rebound and pull off four straight wins, including the program’s first win against the Montana Grizzlies in 14 years.
Their last game, two weeks ago, came at home against Portland State University as senior quarterback Cary Grossart threw for two touchdowns and junior running back Zach Bauman ran for another on the way to a 24–10 victory. Bauman rushed for 92 yards, eclipsing the 3,000 yard mark for his career. He needs 112 yards to pass Archie Amerson for third-most rushing yards at NAU. The Lumberjacks also head into Grand Forks, North Dakota having not turned the football over for 18 consecutive quarters.
“The bye week always has a risk; you lose a little momentum when you don’t play a game, but then again, you do garnish rest and get to recover,” said head coach Jerome Souers. “We came back off the bye week and we practiced very hard and very fast to simulate as much game speed as we can, to get back in a rhythm of the game.”
The Lumberjacks will have their hands full as North Dakota is averaging 453 yards on offense, second best in the Big Sky. Senior Braden Hanson started the season under center, but broke his leg in his first game of the seaosn. Fellow senior Marcus Hendrickson stepped in for Hanson during the week two contest against Portland State and tied a school record by throwing six touchdown passes. Hendrickson has started every game since, even with Hanson returning last week in a loss to Eastern Washington.
Hendrickson has thrown for 14 touchdowns to three interceptions on the season. North Dakota can run as well with the senior tandem of Mitch Sutton and junior Jake Miller. The duo has combined for 685 yards and nine touchdowns on the year.
The NAU defense will try to stop UND, who comes into this game second in the Big Sky with 36.8 points per contest. Despite this, the Lumberjacks’ defense has been stellar during their current win streak, giving up about 14 points per game.
“[The] biggest thing is preparation. You got to watch film constantly, and learn as much as you can about your opponent before the game comes,” said junior defensive back Lucky Dozier. “That way during the game, it’ll be second nature.”
The Lumberjacks rank first in pass defense and second in total defense in the conference and have forced eight turnovers in their last three games.
“We’ve gone up against quite a few good offenses so far, but this offense will challenge us the most through the air,” said defensive coordinator Andy Thompson. “We got to have a great game with our pass rush and defensive backs, so we just have to play with a great effort, great passion and sense of urgency on each play.”