GREELEY, Colo. – Northern Arizona was unable to get past the Northern Colorado defense, as it fell to the Bears 21-18 at Nottingham Field this afternoon. The Lumberjacks scored a touchdown late in the fourth, but their comeback fell short as they lost to the Bears for only the third time in school history.
"We made too many mistakes today," said head coach Jerome Souers. "I'm proud of our athletes, the way they came back and didn't quit. We played hard at times, but we didn't play smart. We had too many penalties, and it seemed like we had a major one on every drive. The turnovers, especially in the red zone, absolutely killed us. You can't turn the ball over inside the five-yard line and expect to win a ballgame."
After going scoreless in the third quarter, NAU (1-4, 0-2 BSC) had a few chances late in the fourth quarter to turn it around. The Lumberjacks scored a touchdown with 2:34 left in the game and converted a two-point conversion to bring them to within three points of the Bears. NAU got the ball back at their own 16-yard line with 53 seconds left to go, but were unable to get into field goal range, as it dropped its third road game of the season.
In his first start at quarterback for NAU, senior transfer Blake Kemp completed his first 12 passes, finishing 35-of-46 for the game with 273 passing yards.
UNC (2-2, 1-0 BSC) faked a 52-yard field goal attempt at the 10-minute mark in the first quarter, but NAU's Kourey Gabriel was not having it. The defensive tackle took down Marques Combs for a loss of six yards, giving the ball back to NAU.
The next series saw Hunter Burton work his magic, as he completed a touchdown pass for the second time this season. Burton connected with tight end Jonathan Baldwin for the first score of the game and a 7-0 Lumberjack advantage.
Three and a half minutes later, UNC quarterback Kyle Sloter passed the ball to Trae Riek for the 27-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7-all with 4:06 to go in the first quarter.
A missed NAU tackle led to a 29-yard rush by Riek, followed by a 12-yard touchdown run by Brandon Cartegena. The score put the Bears up 14-7 with 2:38 to go in the first quarter.
It would be another 12 minutes before either team would score. NAU's Griffin Roehler connected on his fourth field goal of the season when he let the ball sail 25 yards through the uprights. The field goal cut the Bears' lead to 14-10 with 4:34 remaining in the half.
Right before halftime, the home team added a touchdown on a quarterback keep to head into the locker room up 21-10.
Neither team scored in the third quarter, with NAU producing 53 yards of offense, and UNC 43. The Lumberjacks went 0-for-3 on third-down conversions in the third quarter, hindering their chances of moving up the field and scoring. The Bears were 1-for-4, confirming that neither team moved the ball well.
The fourth quarter brought a much needed urgency from the Lumberjacks. Freshman running back Joe Logan provided a spark when he touched the ball, finishing with 98 yards on 11 carries. However, after an ineligible man downfield took back a Patrick Baldenegro score, NAU fumbled the ball at the two-yard line on third and nine to stunt its potential scoring drive. The Lumberjacks did not give up, though, as Kemp found Elijah Marks—who finished with 81 yards on eight catches today—for a two-yard score later in the quarter.
It would be the final score of the game, as the Lumberjacks fell to the Bears by three points. The victory was the first Big Sky win for the Bears, while NAU drops its second-straight conference game.
NAU continues its road swing with a game at Montana State on Saturday, Oct. 8. Kickoff versus the Bobcats is scheduled for 4 p.m. PT. NAU last played in Bozeman in 2013. The Lumberjacks are 25-23 all-time versus Montana State.
Blake Kemp earned his first career start as a Lumberjack…He connected on his first 12 passes of the game…Kemp went 35-for-46 with 273 passing yards…NAU was without injured All-American quarterback Case Cookus for the first time since the start of the 2015 season…Hunter Burton threw NAU's second non-quarterback touchdown pass of the season…Emmanuel Butler moved up to No. 12 on the career receiving yards chart with 1,852.