The Lumberjacks took on the University of Idaho Vandals on Senior Night, their last game of the season, in the Walkup Skydome Saturday. NAU entered the game ranked one spot higher than the Vandals in the Big Sky standings, but finished the regular season with a 60-53 overtime loss to finish with an overall 4-8 record. This is the worst record the Lumberjacks have had since 2011.
The most notable senior that NAU will lose this year is quarterback Case Cookus, who ended his career with the Lumberjacks as their all-time leader in passing touchdowns and passing yards. He ended the game with 450 yards, a career-high, which put him at over 12,000 career passing yards. This makes Cookus one of four quarterbacks to have 12,000 or more yards in Big Sky Conference history.
“Every once in a while you are able to look back on where you came from and just appreciate the journey that you have gone through,” Cookus said.
The first half of the game was neck and neck. The Lumberjacks held the lead the whole time, but the Vandals were able to keep it close.
The Lumberjacks two offensive seniors showed out for their final game in Flagstaff. Cookus lit up the Vandals defense and threw 277 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. Additionally, senior running back Joe Logan had a total of 121 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, one being a 52-yard screen pass that he took to the endzone.
Junior kicker Luis Aguilar made three field goals from 24, 48 and 25 yards for the Lumberjacks.
Although NAU could not hold the Vandals offense, which was led by senior quarterback Mason Petrino, the biggest challenge was guarding redshirt sophomore receiver Jeff Cotton, who caught for 88 yards and one touchdown in the first half. The Lumberjacks struggled to stop runs all year long, which was apparent as Vandals freshman running back Nick Romano ran for 91 yards and one touchdown.
The game was a dog fight as the teams entered the locker room with NAU in the lead 30-24.
Idaho came out of halftime and started to take over the game. The Vandals scored on three consecutive drives, all by Petrino — two passing and one rushing touchdown.
NAU’s offense started to struggle in the third quarter. The Lumberjacks only scored on one of three offensive possessions with a 20-yard touchdown from Logan, his third of the game.
The Vandals were beating the Lumberjacks 46-36 after the third quarter, which was the largest lead of the game.
Just when the Lumberjacks looked like they were going to lose, Cookus found redshirt sophomore Brandon Porter wide open in the middle of the field for a 63-yard touchdown.
Idaho, up by three points, drove down to the Lumberjacks 3-yard line. Petrino looked like he was about to score another rushing touchdown until senior defensive back Khalil Dorsey came from behind and forced a fumble, which was recovered by the Lumberjacks in the endzone. This led to a 2-yard touchdown by Logan to retake the lead, his fourth of the game.
With four minutes left in the game, Idaho drove the ball down and scored on a 29-yard pass from Petrino to Romano to retake a 53-50 lead over the Lumberjacks with 44 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
The Lumberjacks drove the ball down to the Vandals 2-yard line, which was set up by a 35-yard run from Logan and a 19-yard run from Cookus with five seconds left. Aguilar kicked a 19-yard field goal to send NAU into overtime for the first time since 2012.
The Vandals started with the ball first and scored on their first play with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Petrino to Romano.
On fourth-and-2, the Lumberjacks tried a quarterback sneak but failed to capitalize as Idaho won the game 60-53.
Standout performances of this game were all done by seniors — Logan finished the game with 220 total yards of offense and four touchdowns, Cookus finished with 450 yards passing and three touchdowns, and Dorsey with a forced fumble.
NAU head coach Chris Ball was determined to let his seniors go out on a win. Even though that didn’t happen, he was proud of the performance they put out in the final regular-season game.
“It makes me sick that [we] couldn’t send [the seniors] out with a win,” Ball said.
The Lumberjacks were unable to reach the FCS playoffs, so as a result, their season is officially over.