LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Andy Wilder kicked a 33-yard field goal with 12 seconds left to complete the come-from-behind upset win by Northern Arizona over UNLV 17-14. It was the first win over a Football Championship Subdivision team for the Lumberjacks since 1987.
"I think I am proudest of what the difference of nine days can make," said Head Coach Jerome Souers. "We really struggled our first game and had some setbacks and some injuries, but our kids came back and practiced hard and they got much better. When they play better, this is what happens. I am proud of their effort, their attitude and their willingness to stay at it. It says a lot about the character of the program and the direction that we are going."
NAU lost to Arizona State on Aug. 30 63-6 in the season opener.
NAU fell behind 14-0 early in the contest. The Rebels scored on their first offensive possession on a 42-yard run by Tim Cornett. It capped a seven-play, 89 yard drive. UNLV scored again just a minute into the second quarter to lead 14-0.
"I wish I could say it was some magic call," said Defensive Coordinator Andy Thompson. "The kids decided to play a little harder and with a better pad level. They really did a great job of staying true to what we practiced. They made the adjustments."
The Lumberjacks held the Rebels off the scoreboard for the rest of the game, setting the stage for the upset.
Redshirt sophomore Chase Cartwright started the game in for injured senior Cary Grossart. He started to settle down in his first career start, leading the Lumberjacks on a drive late in the second quarter. NAU had two great scoring chances before setting for a field goal attempt by Wilder to end the half. UNLV blocked it.
Senior Austin Shanks started the momentum in the third quarter. The defense forced a three-and-out on the first series, forcing a punt. Shanks returned it 75 yards for a touchdown. It was the sixth-longest punt return in school history and longest since 1983.
"Late in the second half when we got in our hurry up mode I thought we did a good job of moving the ball," said Cartwright. "Then Austin (Shanks) had that special teams touchdown. It really boosted our momentum on the sideline. The last drive in the second quarter was key. We came out in the third quarter and stalled for a little bit. We just chipped away at them one play at a time."
Trailing by seven, UNLV kicker Nolan Kohorst missed a 30-yard field goal, spoiling a 75-yard drive by the Rebels and their final scoring chance of the game. The Lumberjacks then posted a 15-play, 80 yard drive capped by Zach Bauman with an 8-yard touchdown to tie the game with 8:04 left in the game.
NAU held the Rebels on their final two possessions and took over on the NAU 14-yard line with 1:16 left in the game.
Bauman rushed 25 yards on the first play. After an incomplete pass, UNLV was flagged for a personal foul, giving NAU 15 yards and a first down on the UNLV 46.
Cartwright then hit junior wideout Ify Umodu for a 30 yard gain. He was pushed out of bounds at the UNLV 16. After an incomplete pass, UNLV called timeout with 16 seconds in an attempt to ice Wilder. He hit the 33-yarder with 12 seconds left.
"I missed one earlier but I put that one behind me," said Wilder. "The team needed me and it was my turn to step up. I nailed it right through the pipes."
Cartwright finished 17-for-40 for 197 yards. Bauman had 103 yards on 20 carries with one touchdown, Nick Cole had 101 yards on five catches.
NAU (1-1) returns to Flagstaff to host Fort Lewis on Saturday in the home opener. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:05 p.m.