Football Defeated by Cal Poly; Playoff Berth Decided Sunday
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The No. 15 Northern Arizona football team lost a chance to claim a share of the Big Sky Conference title with a 42-34 loss to No. 17 Cal Poly Saturday at the Walkup Skydome. Cal Poly finished at 7-1 in a three-way tie with Eastern Washington and Montana State in the standings.
"I am proud of the effort of our players tonight," said Head Coach Jerome Souers. "Both teams played hard. It had a crazy feel with the changes in momentum and turnovers early that both teams were trying to avoid."
The Football Championship Subdivision field will be announced on ESPNU at 11:30 a.m. Arizona time Sunday morning. The Lumberjacks (8-3, 6-2) are looking to make the playoffs for the fourth time in school history.
"We are disappointed in the outcome," said Souers. "We had a chance to control our own destiny and be part of the championship. We did not play well enough to accomplish that. We will wait for a day to see how the tournament committee sees it and whether we are going to be part of it. That is all we can do before we assess where we go from here."
Cal Poly took the lead at 14-7 in the first quarter on a 40-yard interception return by Nick Dzubnar on a tipped pass from NAU quarterback Cary Grossart. The Mustangs took a 21-13 lead into halftime and scored on their first possession of the second half on a 51-yard pass to Cole Stanford from Andre Broadous.
"Unfortunately the ball bounced the wrong way early and it was not a good start for us," said Grossart.
Cal Poly pushed the lead to 35-13 before the Lumberjacks responded with back-to-back scores to pull within 35-27 with 12:30 left in the game. Cal Poly then marched 90 yards to seal the game. Broadous, who finished 6-for-9 for 180 yards and two touchdowns, scored on a three-yard run. NAU managed a quick strike to stay alive, scoring on a 35-yard pass from Grossart to Jesse Brantley to cut the lead to 42-34. But the Lumberjacks failed to secure the onside kick and Cal Poly ran the clock out.
"Against that team and that offense, you cannot get behind," said Grossart. "They take up chunks of time with each possession. We did not take care of the football and move the chains when we needed to."
Grossart finished 23-for-36 for 274 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Tight end R.J. Rickert led the receivers with a game-high eight catches for 66 yards. Zach Bauman, who missed part of the game with an injury, had 14 carries for 44 yards. Freshman Casey Jahn added eight carries for 44 yards and a touchdown.
Defensive end Jarret Bilbrey had a career-high 14 tackles, while safety Lucky Dozier added a career-high 13 and linebacker Brandon Phillips recorded a career-high 12. Phillips added a 61-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown to open the scoring for the Lumberjacks.
Cal Poly totaled 323 rushing yards in the contest behind 100-yard games by Deonte Williams (139) and Kristaan Ivory (103).
The eight regular season wins were the most for the program since the 2003 season, the last time the Lumberjacks advanced to the FCS playoffs.