MISSOULA, Mont. – In front of a homecoming crowd of 26,136 fans, Northern Arizona (2-2, 0-1 BSC) rallied back in the second half but could not knock off No. 14 Montana (2-2, 1-0 BSC), as the Griz hung on late to defeat the Lumberjacks, 23-14. NAU was 4-0 in ROOT Sports games entering today.
"I'm disappointed in the way we played," said head coach Jerome Souers. "They disrupted a lot of things we wanted to do on offense and it's just a tough outcome for us. I thought we did better in the second half, but at the end of the day we didn't have enough production."
The Lumberjacks were unable to get their offense going in the first half as NAU was held to 19 yards of total offense, a stat that wasn't helped by a pair of fumbles.
Montana registered a 22-yard touchdown to start the game, knocking 1:50 off the clock. NAU's defense was holding the Griz nicely until a 56-yard pass by the home team led to the eventual score and a 7-0 lead for Montana.
An NAU fumble on the kickoff return on the next play led to a 27-yard field goal by the Griz to go up 10-0 before NAU was even able to run a play.
The first quarter was a struggle for NAU as the Griz were able to tally 123 yards to NAU's 12, resulting in a 10-point lead.
The Griz knocked in a 25-yard field goal with 9:13 on the clock in the second to keep NAU at bay and stretch its lead to 13 points.
UM's lead was stretched to 16-0 after the Griz connected on a 27-yard field goal attempt with 5:55 remaining in the second quarter.
NAU came out of halftime with great intensity as it found itself in scoring position, but an interception in the end zone by the Griz halted NAU's chance of a score.
With 6:25 remaining in the third quarter, NAU got its first touchdown of the game as Case Cookus found Emmanuel Butler for a controversial 57-yard score down the left sideline. The referees ruled pass interference on the defense, which was declined by the 'Jacks, and NAU found itself right back in the ballgame at 16-7. It was the fifth thrown touchdown of the season for the Cookus-Butler duo, as the Lumberjacks began to seize momentum from the fanatic home crowd.
Fifty-nine seconds later, Cookus found Butler once again, this time for the 44-yard score up the middle as NAU trimmed the Grizzlies' lead to two. In the third-quarter alone, the Lumberjacks outgained the Griz 177 yards to 58 as Cookus threw for 146 yards and two touchdown passes.
With the Montana defense frazzled, NAU looked poised to take the lead in the forth quarter. However, miscommunication on a couple of drives stalled the Lumberjack offense, and the Griz took advantage.
On its second-to-last drive of the ballgame, Montana pounded the ball up the middle of the Lumberjack defense, gaining 35-yards on the ground before a three-yard passing touchdown put the Griz ahead, 23-14 with 4:05 to go.
NAU was able to pick up a fourth down on its last drive to help sustain some pressure on the Griz defense, but Cookus could not connect with wide received Alex Holmes on NAU's second fourth-down scenario of the drive. The Lumberjacks turned the ball over on downs to Montana, and the Griz took a couple knees to secure the ballgame.
NAU played in Missoula today for the first time since 2012…The 'Jacks entered Saturday with a two-game win streak over the Griz…NAU was held scoreless in the first half for the first time this season…Third 100-yard receiving game for Butler…Maurice Davison made his first career start finishing with eight tackles…
TALE OF TWO HALVES
The Lumberjacks had just 19 yards of total offense in the first half, but exploded for 247 in the second half, thanks in part to two huge touchdown plays from Cookus to Butler. With the two scores, Butler notched his fifth and sixth on the season, while also logging his third-consecutive 100-yard game.
The Lumberjacks' starting tight end came in with only five catches on the season, but RJ Ricket pulled in four alone today for 42 yards at 10-and-a-half yards per catch.
Senior kicker Ryan Hawkins continued his outstanding Lumberjack career Saturday afternoon, booting a season-long 66-yard punt and helping NAU flip the field with eight punts that averaged 46.1 yards per, topping his season-average of 41.8 yards. Hawkins also went 2-for-2 on PAT attempts, extending his consecutive made PAT attempts to 24.