FOOTBALL FALLS AT #24 NORTHERN ARIZONA
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Last season, Sacramento State handed Northern Arizona a 38-9 loss at Hornet Stadium. Just over a year later, the 24th-ranked Lumberjacks repaid the favor with a 42-10 victory over the Hornets at the J.L Walkup Skydome on Saturday.
NAU, which improved to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in Big Sky Conference play, took advantage of a couple of Sacramento State mistakes in the first half and then put the Hornets away in the second half. Sacramento State dropped to 3-3 overall and 1-2 in the Big Sky.
“Give NAU credit,” Sacramento State head coach Marshall Sperbeck said. “They took advantage of our mistakes — both mental and physical. They were clearly the better team today.”
The Lumberjacks were led by quarterback Lance Kriesien who threw for 256 yards and two touchdowns and also rushed for another. The team also received another solid effort from its defense — which entered the game leading the Football Championship Subdivision allowing just 9.0 rushing yards per game — by holding the Hornets to 21 rushing yards.
Sacramento State scored the game’s opening points when Duncan White connected with Tony Washington for a 53-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline on a third down play on the opening drive. From that point, NAU scored the next 25 points of the contest. The team got on the board with a 37-yard field goal from Robbie DeHaze that cut the deficit to 7-3.
After Robert Virgil intercepted a Kriesien pass, the Hornets took the ball at their own 1-yard line. However, a handoff between White and Bryan Hilliard was mishandled in then end zone but White alertly jumped on the loose ball for a safety, making the score, 7-5. Northern Arizona’s first touchdown was set up after its defense came up with a fourth-down stop. Two plays later, Krieisen lobbed a pass to Curt Sweeney for a 29-yard score to give the Lumberjacks their first lead of the game. The final points of the first quarter came on another miscue. Senior punter Oscar De Alba dropped the snap in the end zone which was recovered by Cyrus Igono to give NAU an 18-7 halftime lead.
Northern Arizona continued its momentum at the start of the second half. A long kick return gave NAU the ball near midfield and Deonte Williams capped the drive with a 3-yard run just three minutes into the half.
Juan Gamboa snapped the NAU run with a 45-yard field goal with 9:01 remaining to make the score 25-10. However, momentum quickly swung back to Northern Arizona when Kriesien connected with tight end Brian Riley for a 56-yard score. On the play, Riley was left uncovered in the middle of the field and dashed 40 yards for the score after the catch. The Lumberjacks made the score 39-10 when Kriesien called his own number and scored from 7 yards out on an option play early in the fourth quarter. DeHaze tacked on three more points with a 49-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter.
White finished the game 15-for-31 for 253 yards before giving way to Jon Loeliger in the fourth quarter. Washington was the team’s leading receiver with six grabs for 117 yards. The Simi Valley, Calif., native now has four 100-yard games this season. Freshman Jake Croxdale was the team’s leading rusher with 54 yards.
Sacramento State will get a much-needed bye week before traveling to Montana on Oct. 18.