NAU football will test ASU, but Wildcats should coast

The Lumberjacks can do the Sun Devils a favor tomorrow.  They can give them a good football game because next up is a Big Ten foe, and ASU’s 54-9 blowout against Portland State in the season opener will do little to prepare for the level of ball they will face against Wisconsin next week.

But down in Tucson, the Wildcats are getting little help tomorrow.  The Citadel will visit to pick up a paycheck for its semi-annual beating at the hands of a BCS team.

University of Arizona is the latest major conference school to offer The Citadel a game, which the school needs to help finance its struggling program.  Over the last decade, the team that was picked this year to finish last in the Southern Conference has suffered a combined drubbing of 193-29 at the hands of other BCS teams.

This weekend shouldn’t be any different.

The Wildcats, coming off their season-opening 41-2 beatdown of the University of Toledo, will pad its record a little more with another lopsided win.  But not without paying a price.

The Cats will host Iowa the next week in a nationally-televised game and will have had little preparation for a showdown with the Big Ten.  The Citadel runs a triple-option offense… how many other teams they will face this year run anything similar?

Arizona’s junior quarterback, Nick Foles, is one of the best in the nation this year.  He threw for 415 yards last week and set a school single-game passing percentage record, the second-highest all-time.

So, how difficult was it for Foles to pick apart the Toledo defense?  And how much easier still will it be against the lowly Citadel?

On the other hand, Arizona State is going to have its hands full with the NAU squad, which arrives in Tempe with a full head of steam and the confidence that comes with its season-opening 48-0 win against Western New Mexico.

The Lumberjacks always give their in-state rivals a good game, losing by a couple of scores each time in their last games with ASU and UofA.  This year, they are ranked No. 24 nationally (in the FCS) and are led by a pass-happy quarterback who set a school record last year by throwing for 574 yards against Eastern Washington.

Michael Herrick is a senior with a canon for an arm- and amazing accuracy – that will present a real challenge for ASU’s vaunted defense.  He threw for 73 touchdowns in high school and set a state record with 11,010 yards passing, which earned a scholarship to Mississippi, where he saw limited playing time; he transferred to NAU in the spring of 2008.

Last season, he started all 11 games at NAU and threw for 3,356 yards and 22 TDs and finished the season ranked third in the Big Sky Conference and 15th in the country in passing efficiency (149.5).

The 6’1″, 205 lb. signal caller passed for 178 yards and two touchdowns against WNM to begin his quest to lead the Lumberjacks to the FCS playoffs this season.

As good as his performance was in the opener, his efforts were overshadowed by the emergence of a sophomore running back from Hamilton High School in Chandler.

Zach Bauman stepped in when redshirt sophomore Giovannie Dixon was held out of the game, nursing an injury that hadn’t healed in time.  He responded with 167 yards on 22 carries for four touchdowns to earn the Division I FCS Performer of the Week honors.

During his senior season at Hamilton HS, Bauman racked up 1,600 yards and 30 touchdowns for the Huskies.  Tomorrow he will have an added incentive, since he will be playing in front of his hometown friends and family.

But ASU has a solid quarterback of its own, and more than one running back that can chew up the turf.

Steven Threet, the transfer from the University of Michigan who got the starting nod just days before the Portland State opener, completed 14 of 21 passes for 239 yards.  He played just two and a half quarters, but had touchdown passes of 28 and 62 yards.

To go with the passing game, the Devils got 104 rushing yards from running back Cameron Marshall who tallied three scores, and 100 yards receiving and two more touchdowns from fellow running back, freshman Deantre Lewis.

ASU finished that game with 553 yards of total offense, 311 of which came via the pass, and racked up 23 first downs as they marched up and down the field, averaging almost nine yards per play.

The Sun Devils are going to have to bring every bit of that offense tomorrow to hold off the Lumberjacks.

ASU won the last encounter, in 2006, by a score of 35-14.  But that doesn’t tell how close the contest really was.  The game was tied 14-14 at the half.

Hey, the Sun Devils hold just a slight edge in the history of this mini-rivaly, up just 19-14-4!  And it might be time for the Jacks to draw a little closer to even, since it’s been awhile since the last NAU win.

Once again, if ASU is able to push the series to 20 wins tomorrow, it will likely take four full quarters to put the Jacks away.  But that’s what ASU needs in its second game of the season, a stern test.

Because the Badgers await at Camp Randall Stadium.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)