FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Sacramento State entered Saturday's game against 24th-ranked Northern Arizona with a chance to force a tie for first place in the Big Sky Conference standing. Instead, the Lumberjacks (6-2, 5-0) extended their winning streak to six games with a 37-17 win at the J.L. Walkup Skydome.
The Hornets (4-4, 3-2) struggled to find rhythm on offense, finishing the game with 233 yards of total offense and committing two costly turnovers. Sacramento State used both Wyatt Clapper and Roman Ale at quarterback during the game and the duo finished 5-of-20 for 91 yards with a score. Over half of those yards came on a 48-yard touchdown pass to Elijah Dotson in the third quarter which helped the Hornets pull within three points.
Joseph Ajeigbe led the ground game with 11 rushes for a career high 119 yards. Ajeigbe had the team's first touchdown of the game with a 71 dash up the middle for his fifth score of the season.
Northern Arizona took control of the game in the first quarter, converting a 31-yard field goal on the opening drive and then getting an 18-yard touchdown pass from Case Cookus to Chancellor Brewington.
Already leading 10-0 early in the second quarter, Wes Sutton picked off Clapper in the middle of the field and followed a line of blockers up the field for a 63-yard touchdown return. The Hornets answered with Ajeigbe's touchdown run and a 27-yard field goal from Devon Medeiros to make it a one-score game.
NAU scored the first points of the second half with a 41-yard field goal from Griffin Roehler. However, Sacramento State made it 20-17 when Ale split a pair of defenders on a short pass to Dotson. The freshman came away with the football and was untouched for the final 35 yards for the score.
A 25-yard field goal from Roehler gave the Lumberjacks a 23-17 heading into the fourth quarter and Sacramento State appeared to come away with a stop early in the fourth quarter when Roehler missed a 43 yard attempt. However, the Hornets were called for leveraging on the play which resulted in an automatic first down and led to a 13-yard TD run from Joe Logan.
The final points came three series later when Kam'ron Johnson hauled in an overthrown pass from Ale and much like the previous interception stayed patient behind his blockers for a 46-yard scoring return.
Isiah Hennie was Sacramento State's leading receiver with three catches for 27 yards.
The Hornets were led on defense by Austin Clark who had 10 stops. As a team, the Hornets held NAU to 4-of-16 on third down conversions and 2-of-5 on fourth down tries.
Cookus finished the game 35-of-57 for 407 yards with one touchdown. His favorite target was Brewington who caught eight passes for 119 yards. Joe Logan (67 yards) and Cory Young (62 yards) shared the rushing duties.
Sacramento State returns home to face Northern Colorado on Saturday, Nov. 4, at 6 p.m. The game against the Bears will also be televised by Eleven Sports.
Head coach Jody Sears on the defense:
We did what we wanted to do on defense. We knew that they were going to make some throws but we wanted to take away the long one and we were able to do that.
On the offense:
(NAU) had us on our heels a little bit. They were moving and things were happening pretty fast for Roman and Wyatt. We'll get it corrected and move forward. That was a good football team.
On the team:
We have to stop worrying about the standings and get back to work and get a good game plan that we can execute. It will be good to get back home. We have to learn from it and embrace it but we'll be ok.
11:21 - The game got off to a strange with NAU having a 59-yard touchdown reception called back due to holding on the third play of the game and the Hornets appearing to force NAU into a third and long after Manoah Pearson tackled Cookus. Instead, Pearson was disqualified for targeting and the drive continued. After moving the ball to the Hornet 15, NAU settled for a 31-yard field goal form Roheler.
6:47 - Cookus capped an 8-play, 64-yard drive with an 18-yard pass to Brewington. The play was setup off a play fake which allowed Brewington to get behind the defender in the middle of the end zone.
12:45 - Northern Arizona became the first team to score a defensive touchdown against the Hornets this season when Wes Sutton picked off Clapper at the NAU 37. Sutton zig-zagged his way up the field until a final block freed him down the right sideline.
12:06 - The Hornets just needed two offensive plays to score their first touchdown of the game. Ajeigbe broke through the right side of the line and was able to outrace a defender to the corner of the end zone. The rush was 14 yards longer than Ajeigbe's game-high. His previous career long rush was 32 at Eastern Washington.
3:28 - Ben Soresen stripped Cookus and Marcus Bruce was able to scoop the ball up and return it to the Lumberjack 15 yard line. The Hornets were flagged for two holding calls in the series which led to a 27-yard field goal from Devon Medeiros.
6:24 - Neither team was able to generate much on offense for nearly a quarter until Northern Arizona pieced together a 9-play series which covered 43 yards and ended with a 41-yard field goal from Roehler.
4:29 - Dotson pulled the Hornets within three, 20-17, with his 48-yard touchdown catch. The score was the second reception of at least 30 yards for the freshman which went for a touchdown.
1:12 - NAU immediately bounced back with a field goal from Roehler. The team had two catches of at least 17 yards during the drive and got the ball to the Hornet 8 before stalling.
11:39 - Down by just six, 23-17, Austin Clark and Dre Terrell dropped Stone Smartt on a third-down QB rush for for a 43-yard field goal attempt. The kick missed wide left but NAU was given new life when Sacramento State was flagged for leveraging. On the next play, Joe Logan rushed for a 13-yard TD around the right edge.
7:03 - The final score of the game came when Kam'ron Johnson picked off Ale and returned it 46 yards for a score.
There were a combined 24 penalties for 243 yards between the two schools…each side had a player thrown out for targeting and there was a third call which was overturned…the last time an opponent scored two defensive touchdowns against Sacramento State was in 2015 when Northern Colorado returned a pair of fumbles for scores…Devon Medeiros moved into a tie for ninth place in school single-season history with his 11 make…true freshman Miguel Garcia took the majority of the snaps at middle linebacker after Pearson's disqualification and finished with a career high eight tackles…Bruce has fumble returns of at least 25 yards in the last two games…despite playing just the second half, George Obinna recorded a sack and 2.5 tackles-for-loss.