In their sixth game of the year, NAU had strong offensive second half at the Walkup Skydome against the University of Northern Colorado Bears. The game was packed with parents because of NAU’s annual family weekend. The Lumberjacks won their first conference game against the Bears 41-23, making their overall record 3-3 and their conference record 1-1.
Neither team's offense showed up until late in the first half. The only points were from the Bear's junior kicker Patrick Nakiatka. He was able to start the scoring early by putting up six points on two field goals from 37 and 32 yards.
After NAU’s senior quarterback Case Cookus went 4-10 on his first five offensive possessions for 50 yards, his offense woke up. He threw a 47-yard touchdown to freshman wide receiver Hendrix Johnson on his next drive.
Northern Colorado's graduate student quarterback Jacob Knipp responded to Cookus’ touchdown with one of his own. He led a 6-play, 75-yard drive at 1:41 in the second quarter that ended with a 16-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Willie Fairman.
With 29 seconds left, Cookus was able to drive the NAU offense down the field to the Bear's 40-yard line. This set up a 57-yard field goal from junior kicker Luis Aguilar, the longest field goal made by an NAU kicker since 2000. The Bears stayed ahead at halftime, 13-10.
Both teams came in the second half right where they left off. Knipp threw a 75-yard touchdown to freshman wide receiver Noah Sarria on the second play of the half.
The Lumberjacks responded by scoring on five of their next six possessions — A 61 and a 16-yard touchdown to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Brandon Porter, a 51-yard touchdown to redshirt junior Stacy Chukwumezie, a 14-yard pass to senior tight end Ceejhay French-Love and a 31-yard field goal from Aguilar.
NAU’s 31 points in the second half outscored the last two game's second halves combined.
“This is one of the best team wins I have ever been around,” head coach Chris Ball said. “Because it was scary in that first half, they came together and got it done.”
There were two milestones reached for Lumberjack players. Senior running back Joe Logan’s 84 yards rushing put him over 2,000 career yards. Cookus’ 406 yards passing, one yard less than his career high, put him over 10,000 career yards. Cookus is also two touchdown passes away from tying the all-time NAU touchdown passing record.
Two of the Lumberjack's receivers had stand out games. Porter had seven catches for 152 yards and two touchdowns, and Chukwumezie had seven catches for 156 yards and one touchdown. Porter was excited about the win and did not let his stats take away from the ultimate goal.
“I’m really not a stat chaser. I’m really a 'W' chaser,” Porter said. “As long as we get the 'W' and if I had two yards I’m happy."
The Lumberjacks will not be playing because of a scheduled bye week next weekend. They will continue conference play in two weeks when NAY faces Weber State University in Ogden, Utah.