FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – No. 25 Northern Arizona won its fourth-consecutive game and finished the 2015 regular season at the Walkup Skydome going a perfect 5-0 at home with a 49-35 victory over Sacramento State Saturday afternoon.
The Lumberjacks (7-3) were led by their quarterback Case Cookus, who continued his stellar freshman campaign against the Hornets (2-8) going 25-33 for 407 passing yards and six touchdowns. Cookus also accounted for 41 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
The Lumberjacks did not take long to put points on the board, using only 49 seconds on the opening drive of the game to go 75-yards on four plays. Cookus capped off the drive by connecting with sophomore wide receiver Emmanuel Butler for a 16-yard score. That touchdown reception marked Butler's 15th on the season, tying the single-season school record. Butler went on to grab 119 yards through the air becoming the 10th player in school history to register 1,000 receiving yards in a season.
The Hornets responded with a score of their own to knot the game at 7-7, but an acrobatic interception by senior Eddie Horn – his fourth of the season - put the ball back in Cookus' hands, where he cashed in the turnover with a four-yard rushing touchdown to give the Lumberjacks the lead once again at 14-7.
Sacramento State answered with a seven-play, 75-yard drive to tie the game at 14, but the Lumberjacks scored three unanswered to close out the high-scoring first half. In a span of 11 minutes in the second quarter, the NAU offense mounted drives of 75, 76 and 72 yards all sealed by touchdown receptions. Two of those went to senior Dejzon Walker, who hauled in scores of 20-yards and 16-yards, while sophomore Elijah Marks caught the first of his three touchdowns on the day at the 7:51 mark.
Beginning the second half up 35-14, the air-raid attack both teams exhibited in the first two quarters was silenced for the first 12 minutes of the third quarter, as neither team could get any momentum going out of the break. However, the Lumberjacks would not be denied in the third, as Cookus found Marks for the 11-yard score to increase the deficit to 28 in favor of NAU.
The Hornets were held scoreless in the third, but did manage to tack on 21 points in the fourth quarter. The Lumberjacks score seven points off a Cookus-Marks 34-yard combo to keep the Hornets at bay and secure the 49 points they strive for each game.
Joining Butler in the 1,000-yard club today was senior Casey Jahn. He rushed for 88 yards, making him and Butler the fourth duo in school history to have a 1,000-yard rusher and receiver in the same season.
With the whirlwind of Big Sky match-ups on the day complete, it appears that five teams – NAU Southern Utah, Eastern Washington, Montana, and Portland State – are all fighting for a piece of the conference championship next weekend. Out of the five mentioned above, Southern Utah is the only one that has clinched at least a share of the title with only one league loss under its belt.
Notes: For the first time since 2009, NAU had a rusher and receiver eclipse the 1,000-yard mark...Jahn reached 1,019 yards today, while Butler brought his season total to 1,095…Butler also tied the season record for touchdown receptions with 15…NAU recognized 18 seniors before the start of the game.