FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. --- Northern Arizona quarterback Jason Murrietta threw for 384 yards and four touchdowns to help lead the Lumberjacks to a 39-22 victory over Sacramento State on Saturday afternoon at the J.L. Walkup Skydome.
The victory improved NAU to 3-4 overall and 2-2 in Big Sky Conference play. The Hornets dropped to 2-5 overall and 2-3 in league games.
Northern Arizona struck first when Murrietta connected on a screen pass to Skyler Moore who rambled 70 yards for the touchdown. Sacramento State answered right back with a touchdown pass from Marcel Marquez to Andre Taylor.
One play after Marquez overthrew Taylor on a bomb down the middle of the field, the junior connected with Taylor on the left side and the receiver pulled away from the defense to tie the game with 9:28 remaining in the first quarter.
The shootout continued on the next drive as NAU used just two plays to cover 80 yards for the score. After a 6-yard gain, Murrietta connected with Alex Watson for a 74-yard catch and run. The pace slowed for the net 23 minutes but Northern Arizona was able to add one more score in the closing seconds of the half.
Due to a personal foul face mask penalty, the Lumberjacks took over at their own 49-yard line. Murrietta methodically moved the team down to the 11-yard line before hitting Watson on a line drive in the front of the end zone with 54 seconds showing.
The Hornets opened the second half with a long drive that was capped with a 3-yard strike from Marquez to Billy White. The big play during the drive was a 3rd-and-7 completion to White for 43 yards which moved the ball into NAU territory. The Hornets were also aided by a pass interference call which placed the ball at the 3-yard line setting up the touchdown.
After each team was forced to punt, NAU added to its lead with a 1-yard run from Josh Sayles The drive began inside Hornet territory following a fumble on the punt return. Murrietta took the team inside the red zone with a pass to Moore and a pass interference call gave NAU a 1st-and-goal from the 2-yard line. Linebacker Chris Hunsacker added a 2-point conversion on a fake attempt to make the score, 29-14, with 2:34 remaining in the third.
Northern Arizona tacked on another touchdown in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter when Murrietta found Watson for a 25-yard touchdown in the right corner of the end zone.
Despite the large deficit, Sacramento State was not through. Marquez threw his third touchdown pass of the game with a 26-yard strike to Taylor. Kris Daniels tacked on the two-point conversion off a shovel pass from Marquez to make the score, 36-22, with 8:38 remaining in the game.
Marquez ended the day with a career-high 336 passing yards on 25-of-40. His yardage total made him the first Hornet to pass for 300 yards in a game since Ryan Leadingham had 366 against Idaho State on Sept. 27, 2003. Marquezâ€™s 25 completions were also the most by a Sacramento State QB since Blake Mori had 25 against Eastern Washington on Oct. 25, 2004.
Taylor finished with a career-high 155 yards on eight receptions. His yardage mark was the most since Fred Amey tallied 165 against Idaho State in 2004. Bobby Mooshagian had five receptions for 39 yards and Billy White added three grabs for 57 yards.
Murrietta was near-perfect throughout the game. The senior was 21-of-28 for 384 yards and four touchdowns. Watson was his favorite target, catching eight passes for 150 yards and three touchdowns. Skyler Moore added five grabs for 147 yards.
Defensively, Cyrus Mulitalo had eight tackles to lead the team. Brent Webber also added six.
NAU was led by Hunsacker and Jeff Wheeler who each had six.
Sacramento State will return home to face Northern Colorado on Saturday, Oct. 28, at 6:05 p.m.