NAU loses in a close triple over–time thriller
By Devontae Brown
The Northern Arizona University (NAU) Lumberjacks came into Saturday’s football game on an eight–game winning streak looking to improve to a 9–1 overall record. The Southern Utah University (SUU) Thunderbirds had other plans for the Jacks.
The Thunderbirds never really let NAU get into a rhythm on offense. In the first quarter, the Thunderbirds intercepted senior quarterback Cary Grossart twice. One of those interceptions was returned to the end zone for a touchdown. NAU also lost a fumble on what seemed to be a questionable call. While Grossart was looking to find junior wide receiver Ify Umodu, he was tackled down to the ground and the ball came loose and was ruled a fumble.
The offensive woes continued for the Jacks from the second quarter until the middle of the third quarter. The game was close at 12–7, in favor of the Thunderbirds. In the fourth quarter, the Jacks scored a touchdown making the game 13-12 and opting to go for two, which they converted. The Jacks had a chance to finish the game at 15–12, but the Thunderbirds hung in late to tie the game and force overtime.
SUU received the toss in overtime, scoring a touchdown on a quarterback sneak. The Lumberjacks responded with a touchdown pass to tie the game at 22. This exchange happened between both teams to tie the game again at 29 each in the second overtime. In the third overtime SUU scored a TD and didn’t convert on a two-point conversion. On fourth and two, Grossart was sacked, thus ending the game on what would have been a magnificent win for NAU.
NAU Offense Struggles
The offense struggled heavily through the game Saturday. Whether it be finding no offensive rhythm running the ball, this lack of an effective rushing attack (which was completely shut down), and the protection, was not as solid as previous games. This team’s primary goals are to run the ball first and throw second. The game–plan is predicated on an effective run which creates more time of possession, opens the homerun plays down the field through play action, and most importantly keeps the opposing defense on the field. Once the run game was taken away the Jacks became one dimensional, despite Ify Umodu having a great day catching the ball.
NAU gave up six sacks during the game and a multitude of rushed throws, which led to incomplete passes. It seemed that the tenacity was not on the offensive side of the ball like it was on the defense. NAU was searching for answers throughout the whole game, which is a testament to the opposing teams’ defense.
On the game winning drive NAU called a questionable play on third and seven electing to run the ball rather than throwing. NAU gained five yards forcing a throwing play-call in which Grossart was then sacked on fourth and two ending the game. The Jacks just could not run the ball the whole game, though we kept trying to loosen the defense. A good run game keeps the defense honest and sets up more 1-on-1 coverage for our receivers. If the Jacks would have thrown on that third down play I believe we would have had a better chance of scoring. Through the game, all of the key third down conversions and scoring drives had been on throws not on the run. The Jacks hung into the game by the hats of the defense, though they did not create turnovers, the defense forced the Thunderbirds out of their game plan as well. The defense the whole game not only forced a multitude of punts, but also forced a lot of hurried throws and kept the opposing teams offense in third and very long throughout the game.
NAU looks to correct and make adjustments for the final game of the season against San Luis Obispo next Saturday.