TUCSON, Ariz. – Northern Arizona (2-1) dropped its first game of the season tonight to No. 20 Arizona in Tucson at Arizona Stadium. The Wildcats improved to 3-0, while the Lumberjacks will refocus and prepare for conference play.
"I would like to congratulate Arizona for playing very well," said head coach Jerome Souers. "They had a lot of depth in a lot of areas and it showed in the second half. Their option led to a big lead and we saw a lot of examples of how they were able to a group of talented receivers. We have to learn from this game, because we have to focus on conference play next."
NAU got off to a strong start when it scored on its first drive taking 4:59 off the clock resulting in a 39-yard made field goal by Ryan Hawkins as the Lumberjacks jumped out to an early lead against the FBS Top 25 team.
The Wildcats ran 1:47 off the clock before Anu Solomon scored on a one-yard run giving UA a 7-3 edge.
At the end of the first quarter, NAU held UA to less than 14 points for the first time this season. NAU's six points was also the most UA had allowed an opponent to score in the first quarter this season.
Following the Wildcats' second touchdown to put the score at 14-6, Lumberjack quarterback Case Cookus found Emmanuel Butler who split the defense in the middle of the field for the 62-yard touchdown score, the longest of the year. The Cookus-Butler touchdown connection was the fourth from the pair this season, as the 'Jacks trimmed UA's lead to 14-13 with 11:52 to go in the second quarter.
Neither team wanted to back down in the first quarter, but it was UA that got a surge in the second quarter putting up 35 points to NAU's seven.
By the time halftime hit, UA had 391 yards of offense to NAU's 237. The Lumberjacks struggled on third down conversions (2 of 9), while the Wildcats were a bit more successful converting 4 of 6.
"Arizona ran the pass option tonight," said Josh Bamrick. "They had some good athletes, but we have to execute on third downs. It came down to us having to make plays."
For the second straight game, NAU was unable to score in the third quarter as the Wildcats extended their lead to 56-13 off a pair of touchdowns.
The Wildcats would score three more times in the fourth quarter, turning another Lumberjack interception into points. NAU was unable to respond with any offensive pressure, as UA secured a 77-13 victory over their neighbors to the north.
Cookus played only the first half, completing 8 of 13 passes for 190 yards and one thrown touchdown. Kyren Poe played the second half, also finishing 8 of 13, but threw two costly interceptions that the Wildcats were able to capitalize on for touchdowns. Poe ended the day with 81 yards passing
Butler was able to chart his second 100-yard career receiving game with 119 yards on five catches. Guiding the NAU defense was Eddie Horn, who ended the day with a season-high tackles (10), which is one more than his season total coming into this game (9).
"Coach (Tim) Plough and the offensive staff engineered a great plan," said Butler. "We knew they were going to leave us one-on-one and we had to make plays. In the second half they adjusted their defense and it worked."
Notes: The 69-yard pass from Cookus to Walker is a new season high for NAU…Butler's 69-yard touchdown reception is a new season high for the 'Jacks…NAU's first drive, nine plays, 49 yards, 4:59…Cookus threw 53 career passes before committing his first interception…Cookus had not been sacked before tonight's matchup; the Wildcats knocked down Cookus two times…Hawkins has connected on 22 straight PATs dating back to last season…33-yard kickoff return by Elijah Marks – longest of the season for NAU…Last time out versus Arizona, NAU (2013) was held to zero points, tonight it scored 13…UA's 77 points is the most scored by an opponent since Arizona State scored 63 versus the 'Jacks in 2011…Arizona's 77 points was a new school record.