Football Comes Back, Loses Late Lead in Loss to Weber State
Photo by Robert Casey
OGDEN, Utah – The Northern Arizona football team scored late and almost came away with a road win before Weber State slashed their comeback effort with a 34-31 victory Saturday in snowy, cold conditions at Stewart Stadium.
"There were a lot of plays that went in both directions," said Head Coach Jerome Souers. "I am proud of our guys. They never gave up and found a way to get the lead late in the game, playing in some adverse conditions and showing a lot of courage today."
Weber State scored the winning touchdown with 26 seconds left, capping a five-play, 61-yard drive that overcame a go-ahead score by the Lumberjacks with 1:36 left. The drive was aided by a 24-yard return by C.J. Tucket and pass interference call against NAU, setting the ball in short range at the two-yard line.
"In the fourth quarter, we had some breakdowns in a young secondary that really hurt us," said Souers. "We have to be able to close the game out like that and we didn't. We gave away to many big plays and made for a really tough finish especially for our seniors."
The Lumberjacks (4-6, 3-5 Big Sky) trailed 19-10 at the half but scored 14 unanswered points to take the lead in the third quarter. NAU came out of the locker room strong, scoring on the first drive to pull within two points at 19-17. Two drives later, Cary Grossart hit Khalil Paden on a 58-yard play to take the lead, the first of four lead changes in the second half.
Weber State would take the lead back early in the fourth quarter on a one-yard run by Tucket and looked in control until NAU got the back with 3:40 left. Grossart led the Lumberjacks 60 yards highlighted by a 34-yard completion to Dejzon Walker. Bauman scored on the next play for a 31-27 advantage.
"As a football team we did a lot of things in the second half better," said Souers. "They had a good running back and ran very good in the snow. He gave us a hard time. But we created some stops and some situations. At the end of the day, our inexperience at times really hurt us today."
NAU had a final chance and almost executed a crazy multiple-pitch effort that ended on the Weber State 20-yard line as time expired.
Tucket had 254 yards rushing for the Wildcats and finished with a Big Sky record 407 all-purpose yards. Zach Bauman had 126 yards and two touchdowns, while Paden finished with seven catches for 152 yards. Grossart finished with 294 yards and two touchdowns.
The game was altered by the weather prior to the contest. Rain turned into snow one hour before the game, blanketing the field and making traction tricky at the start of the game.
Weber State scored on the first possession of the game while the Lumberjacks got accustomed to the conditions as snow fell for the duration of the first quarter. Weber's C.J. Tucket took the first play 49 yards and scored five plays later on a 16-yard burst into the end zone. NAU blocked the extra-point, a play that would be important in the game.
NAU scored on its second possession, marching 95 yards behind Cary Grossart, who went 5-for-5 on the drive for 71 yards. His final connection came on a 7-yard pass to Dejzon Walker in the back of the end zone.
Weber State scored again to take back the lead at 12-7. NAU cut the deficit to 12-10 just before the half on a 28-yard field goal by Matt Myers. But Tucket struck again on a third-and-one with less than a minute left before halftime, scampering 45 yards for another score to give the Wildcats a 19-10 lead at the half. He finished with 159 yards in the first half with two scores.
NAU returns home next Saturday to host Southern Utah in a non-conference game to close the 2011 season. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. at the Walkup Skydome.