FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Southern Utah scored in the third overtime and stopped Northern Arizona to prevail in a thrilling game 35-29 at the Walkup Skydome Saturday afternoon.
"It was a great college football game today," said Head Coach Jerome Souers. "It is unfortunate when somebody has to lose. It was a really hard fought game. I am really proud of my team and they played very hard as both teams did."
NAU overcame a 12-0 first-half deficit, scoring 15 unanswered points in the second half to take a late lead. The Thunderbirds marched 73 yards to close regulation, getting a 19-yard field goal by Colton Cook to force the overtime.
"We had a tough time getting out of the blocks on offense," said Souers. "We had the turnover for a touchdown and a lot of three-and-outs early and less production came at an expense to our defense."
SUU opened the overtime, scoring in three plays on a four-yard sneak by quarterback Brad Sorenson. The Lumberjacks answered with touchdown pass by Cary Grossart to Dejzon Walker to take the lead but SUU scored again to tie the game at 29.
In the third overtime, Southern Utah converted on third-and-seven when Sorensen hit Easton Pedersen for a 22-yard touchdown. Forced to attempt a two-point conversion per overtime rules, Sorensen's pass was knocked down. NAU then had a chance to win the game with a score and two-point conversion. Zach Bauman rushed 13 yards for a first down to the 12-yard line before SUU stopped the Lumberjacks on downs. Quarterback Cary Grossart was sacked on fourth down, giving the victory to Southern Utah.
Grossart finished 30-for-42 for 298 and four touchdowns and two interceptions. Ify Umodu had eight catches for 117 yards and two touchdowns, while Bauman finished with 83 yards on 27 carries.
NAU fell behind early when Grossart was intercepted by Tommy Collet, who returned it 55 yards for a touchdown. SUU then got a safety off a blocked punt to push the lead to 9-0 and Cook hit a 42-yard field goal early in the second quarter.
"There a lot of negative momentum in the first half but the locker room was positive and we got into problem-solving mode," said Souers. "We had to get to the things to give us more production. We needed to throw the ball more and we effectively did that on a couple of drives that gave us some scores and put us back in position to finish the game."
The Lumberjacks scored on a Grossart pass to Umodu with 5:40 left in the third quarter to cut the lead to 12-7. NAU took its first lead with five minutes left in the game on a scoring pass to R.J. Rickert. Grossart hit Austin Shanks on the two-point conversion to lead 15-12.
Sorensen, who went 23-for-41 for 22 yards, led his team 73 yards before settling for a field goal to force the overtime.
NAU (8-2, 6-1) dropped into a four-way tie for first place with one regular season game remaining against Cal Poly next Saturday. The Lumberjacks can secure a share of the conference title with a victory over the Mustangs.
"We have another week to play and we still have a lot to play for," said Souers. "So we will have our eyes on that and working to correct the mistakes we made today."
Southern Utah snapped the Lumberjacks' eight-game winning streak with the victory.