Football Upsets Ninth-Ranked Montana State
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Quarterback Michael Herrick threw for 281 yards and three touchdowns and the Northern Arizona defense held the second-ranked offense in the Football Championship Subdivision to 123 yards to upset ninth-ranked Montana State 34-7 Saturday at the Walkup Skydome.
"I couldn't be prouder of the men in our program and the people who support us," said Head Coach Jerome Souers. "This is a program win for us and of major significance. Our staff showed great resolve and our players continue to work hard."
The win marked the highest ranked team defeated by NAU at home since 2002 when the Lumberjacks defeated then-No. 9 Portland State in the Walkup Skydome.
Montana State, which led the Big Sky and ranked second in the FCS in total offense at 516.2 yards per game, was held to just 19 yards in the first half and 123 for the game.
Herrick went 32-for-43 for 281 yards and three touchdowns, completing 23-of-28 passes in the first half as the Lumberjacks built a 28-0 lead. Zach Bauman had 138 yards of total offense, rushing for 71 and gaining 67 on seven receptions. Austin Shanks and Daiveun Curry-Chapman combined for 16 catches for 144 yards and three touchdowns.
"I can't say enough about the heart and character of the guys on that drive," said Souers. "It is a tough way to start the game. It was a lot of plays. You have to credit Michael Herrick for running the offense. Brian Lindgren made some great calls and the offensive line showed a lot of courage and guts. Zach Bauman made some outstanding runs. There were a lot of quality efforts across the board."
NAU (4-2, 2-1 Big Sky) got on the board first with a quarter-draining 19-play, 99-yard drive that took 9:23 off the clock in the initial quarter. Herrick went 7-for-8 on the drive, while Zach Bauman rushed 10 times for 43 yards. The Lumberjacks scored on a 4-yard pass from Herrick to Curry-Chapman.
The drive sparked the Lumberjack offense, marking the first of four consecutive scoring possessions. Running back Giovannie Dixon rumbled 43 yards on the first play of the next drive deep into Bobcat territory. Bauman scored five plays later for a 14-0 lead. Herrick threw seven times on the next drive, hitting Curry-Chapman for a 15-yard score to push the lead to 21-0.
"The offense did a great job of controlling the ball," said Souers. "It did really set the tone."
The Lumberjacks completed the half with a 16-play, 77-yard drive that resulted in a 15-yard pass play to Shanks to extend the lead to 28-0. The Bobcats ran just 13 plays in the first half, totaling 19 yards in the first 30 minutes of the contest.
"Our defense has been playing very hard and very well," said Souers. "Montana State had a lot of talent spread across their offense. To manage that much that talent in one setting and hold them to seven points was a major accomplishment."
Senior linebacker Cody Dowd completed the scoring the Lumberjacks with a 28-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. He finished with a team-best seven tackles.
NAU recorded four sacks and two fumble recoveries with five different players recording a tackle for loss.
"I am excited about what we have accomplished and the understanding of the level we can play at," said Souers. "This is what our talent level will allow us and we need to stay motivated in practice to maintain that."
The crowd of 12,155 at the Walkup Skydome was the largest since the Lumberjacks drew 12,821 against Montana during the 2003 season.
NAU travels to play at Montana next Saturday at 12:05 p.m. Flagstaff time. The Grizzlies defeated Portland State 23-21 to improve to 5-2, 4-1 in Big Sky play.