After losing for the first time at home last week against the Sacramento State Hornets 34-38, the Lumberjacks continued their road losing streak against the Southern Utah University Thunderbirds. Their 31-30 loss to the Thunderbirds made NAU 0-6 in away games and are also on a three-game losing streak.
NAU senior quarterback Case Cookus broke another NAU record. He ended the game with 325 passing yards, which makes him NAU’s all-time leader for the program with 11,632. Cookus also has the most passing touchdowns by any NAU quarterback of all-time, which he accomplished against Weber State earlier this year.
The Thunderbirds redshirt sophomore quarterback Chris Helbig was able to drive his offense down the field to the NAU 7-yard line, which led to a field goal from junior kicker Manny Berz. NAU answered with a field goal of its own as junior kicker Luis Aguilar made a 36-yard field goal to tie the game with three minutes left in the first quarter.
NAU could not find a way to slow down the Thunderbirds offense until sophomore running back Karris Davis fumbled the ball, which was recovered by NAU.
Cookus took advantage of the good field position and found redshirt sophomore wide receiver Brandon Porter for a 31-yard touchdown on the first play of the second quarter.
The Lumberjacks continued to struggle against the Thunderbirds offense as they marched down the field. Southern Utah ran a flea-flicker trick play that was thrown from Helbig to sophomore running back Thomas Duckett for a 44-yard touchdown.
Cookus took the game into his own hands as he ran for a 20-yard touchdown off a read-option, his first rushing touchdown of the season. Southern Utah once again answered NAU’s touchdown with a 7-yard rush from Duckett.
With two minutes left in the half, the Thunderbirds were able to stop the Lumberjacks on their 2-yard line, which forced NAU to use Aguilar for a 20-yard kick, his second field goal of the game. The teams went into the locker rooms for halftime with NAU up 20-17.
During NAU’s first drive in the second half, senior running back Joe Logan was injured and replaced by freshman running back George Robinson.
Southern Utah found the end zone first in the second half. After forcing NAU to punt the ball for the first time in the game, the Thunderbirds capitalized on an 11-play, 90-yard offensive drive with an 11-yard run from Davis.
NAU was able to respond with a touchdown of its own on a 9-yard rush from Robinson. Duckett scored his third touchdown of the game with a 54-yard run on the fifth play of Southern Utah’s next drive, giving the Thunderbirds a 31-27 lead.
Logan returned for the next Lumberjacks offensive drive, which ended in a 46-yard field goal from Aguilar, his third of the game.
After stopping the Thunderbirds on a 3rd & 1, the Lumberjacks looked like they were going to score and take the lead once again. However, Southern Utah stopped NAU at its 1-yard line to retake possession with eight minutes left in the game.
NAU was unable to find success on its next offensive drive, which allowed Southern Utah to run out the clock and walk away with a 31-30 win.
The star player for the Lumberjacks was Porter who ended the game with 10 receptions, 151 yards and one touchdown. This is his fifth 100-yard game this season and one yard off tying his career high.
The Lumberjacks return home for their last game of the season against the University of Idaho Nov. 23. The Vandals have not won an away game this season and the Lumberjacks will attempt to get back in the win column and snap their three-game losing streak.