NAU Outlasts the Snow and Southern Utah for the Grand Canyon Trophy
CEDAR CITY, Utah – No. 10 Northern Arizona (9-2, 7-1 Big Sky) football battled through the snow storm today to defeat No. 20 Southern Utah (8-4, 5-3 Big Sky). The Lumberjacks scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to come away with the victory and the Grand Canyon Trophy.
"At halftime we went into the locker room and told ourselves that we were not going to give them this game two years in a row," said senior running back Zach Bauman. "We came out with a mindset that we were not going to lose this game and we were able to come out with a win."
It was a chilly afternoon for both teams as they battled the snow the entire game, which caused for most of the ball movement to come on the ground, rather than in the air. SUU went the entire first half without attempting a pass.
The first quarter was an adjustment period for NAU and Southern Utah, as the Lumberjacks had 65 yards and the Thunderbirds totaled 16 yards.
NAU fought its way into field goal range in the second quarter, but a block by James Cowser ruined the Lumberjacks' chances of a score.
The blocked field goal was recovered by SUU's Tyree Mills and returned 38 yards to the NAU 34-yard line. The play would lead to a Thunderbird touchdown as the home team took a 7-0 lead with 2:22 to go in the half.
SUU attempted its first pass of the game with 10:09 to go in the third quarter, which resulted in a pass interference call on NAU and an automatic first down. The Thunderbirds were able to add three more points to their total on the same drive when Colton Cook connected on a 32-yard field goal with 8:15 left in the third quarter.
Bauman tallied a three-yard rush with 7:45 to go in the third quarter to eclipse the 5,000 career rushing yards mark. He's the only player in NAU history to rush for 4,000 or more career yards.
Andy Wilder made up for a blocked field goal earlier in the game as he connected on a 29-yard field goal with 4:11 to go in the third quarter to put NAU on the scoreboard.
Junior linebacker Austin Hasquet came up big again when he intercepted SUU's Mike Sharp for the 16-yard return with 7:49 remaining in the game. The interception led to a 20-yard field goal by Wilder and NAU's first lead of the game.
Senior safety Blair Wishom added a security touchdown when he intercepted Aaron Cantu's pass and ran the ball back 52 yards for the score with 10 seconds left in the game.
NAU finished the regular season 9-2 for the first time since the 1996 season. No. 3 Eastern Washington plays Portland State tonight. If the Eagles lose, they will share the Big Sky regular season title with NAU, as both teams will have one conference loss. The two teams did not face each other this season.
The 2013 NCAA Division I Football Championship 24-team playoff field will be released tomorrow morning. The top four seeds will be released in alphabetical order this Sunday at 9 a.m. (MT) prior to the 24-team bracket selection show at 9:30 a.m. (MT).
The announcement of the top four seeds will be released on the ESPNU and ESPNews bottom-lines and on www.NCAA.com. The entire 24-team bracket and pairings will be announced at 9:30 a.m. (MT) on ESPNU.