NAU’s offense searched and sputtered on Saturday afternoon, as the ‘Jacks lost 34-7 to the University of South Dakota Coyotes and fell to 0-2 on the season.
Coyotes freshman quarterback Carson Camp got the scoring started for South Dakota, connecting with senior tight end Brett Samson for a 28-yard touchdown. After an NAU three-and-out resulted in a punt, South Dakota drove 59 yards downfield in four plays, this time finishing with a 13-yard rushing touchdown by redshirt freshman running back Travis Theis. A 41-yard field goal from senior kicker Mason Lorber made it 17-0 with 5:38 remaining in the first quarter, a lead which the Lumberjacks would never recover from.
NAU was unable to get much of anything going on offense, punting on five of seven first-half drives. However, the offense started to show signs of life at the end of the first quarter, finding itself in the red zone as the second quarter got underway. A holding penalty pushed the ‘Jacks back to South Dakota’s 26-yard line, and the next play saw redshirt freshman QB Jeff Widener throw his first interception of the day when Coyotes’ senior defensive back Elijah Reed picked off his pass at the three-yard line.
On paper, the game should have been much closer, but statistics alone don’t tell the whole story. NAU led South Dakota in first downs and time of possession, while only coming in slightly behind in passing and rushing yards. Although NAU possessed the ball more than its opponent, that’s due in part to the ease and quickness with which South Dakota was able to score on the Lumberjack defense.
The Coyote’s longest scoring drive of the afternoon was an 11-play, 84-yard drive capped off by a one-yard rushing touchdown by Theis to make their lead 24-0. It took the Coyotes just three minutes and 42 seconds to move the ball down the field and into the end zone.
NAU’s offensive woes continued in the second half, with Jeff Widener throwing an interception returned 51 yards for a touchdown by junior linebacker Jonathan Joanis on the Lumberjacks’ first drive of the second half. Widener completed 22 of 33 passes for 202 yards and NAU’s only touchdown — a 16-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Hendrix Johnson — along with two interceptions on the day.
South Dakota’s scoring ended after the pick six, with NAU’s defense forcing a fumble and three punts on the Coyotes four second-half drives. The Lumberjacks’ scoring ceased in the third quarter after another promising drive to the red zone stalled out, this time with a turnover on downs at the South Dakota 15-yard line. The drive spanned 82 yards over 17 plays, but still ended empty-handed.
NAU will look to right the ship next Saturday with a trip to Tucson to take on the University of Arizona Wildcats.