College football fans in Arizona can still enjoy the thrill that comes with winning. They just have to climb the mountain to Flagstaff to get it.
Arizona State lost its fourth game Saturday. The Arizona Wildcats also dropped their fourth. But the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks just keep on winning – posting their eighth straight victory.
All three games were played on the road, with the biggest shocker happening in Pasadena, Calif., where Arizona suffered its worst beat-down since losing to Oregon, 49-0, on Sept. 22. This time, the Cats dropped a 66-10 blowout to Pac-12 rival, UCLA.
That game didn’t start well. And got worse as it went on.
Johnathan Franklin, the UCLA redshirt senior running back, became the all-time career rushing leader at the school by scoring the first touchdown of the game on the Bruins’ first possession. The Cats went three-and-out when they got the ball back, and then shanked the punt on fourth down. It went downhill from there – fast.
The Bruins scored again less than six minutes into the game, scored again six minutes later, and again as the second quarter opened…and pretty much at will after that, going into halftime with a 42-3 lead. UCLA gained 400 yards in the first half alone, picking up 21 first downs, and scoring six touchdowns. Total domination.
Arizona (5-4, 2-4) scored its only touchdown of the game early in the second half when the sophomore sensation from Canyon del Oro High School, Ka’Deem Carey, ran for his 12th rushing score of the year. But that was the last time the Cats were heard from.
Meanwhile, out in Corvalis, the Sun Devils (5-4, 3-3) got off to a much better start against their Pac-12 opponent, Oregon State, thanks to a big boost from the defense – which scored the first points of the game. Will Sutton caused a fumble on the Beavers’ opening drive and Junior Onyeali picked it up on the one-yard line, then fell into the end zone for the 7-0 lead with less than half a minute played.
After an OSU field goal, the Sun Devils scored again on a one-yard plunge by Cameron Marshall to put the lead at 14-3. The TD was the 35th of his career for the senior running back from San Jose, which moves him into second place on the ASU all-time list
OSU caught up by halftime, with the score tied at 19 going into the second half. The Beavers took the lead on their first possession of the second half and never trailed after that.
The Devils had a sub-par offensive performance, finishing with just 303 total yards. QB Taylor Kelly threw for 153 yards and a touchdown, completing 22-of 41 attempts.
Meanwhile, over in Pocatello, Idaho, Northern Arizona wrapped up a 50-10 drubbing of Idaho State to solidify their lead in the Big Sky Conference and help justify their No. 12 national ranking among FCS schools.
After dropping their season opener to ‘big brother’ Arizona State, the Lumberjacks (8-1, 6-0) haven’t lost a game. This is just the second time in program history that a team has begun the season 8-1. The last time was more than a half-century ago.
An aggressive, lock-down defense played a big part in the Idaho State win, sacking the Bengals’ quarterback, Kevin Yost, three times and recording eight tackles for loss. The defensive unit also contributed a safety, blocked punt, and an interception.
Senior QB Cary Grossart completed 18 of 29 attempts for 238 yards, while Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson added 151 yards on eight carries, putting up two touchdowns. The senior running back is another local product, a four-star recruit out of Hamilton High School in Chandler.
“Southern Utah is a great team and we know the type of game it will be,” says head coach Jerome Souers in looking ahead to Saturday’s home game that will be shown live on Fox Sports Arizona. “We are coming to bring our best and I hope the people of Flagstaff do the same. We really need their help.”
The Jacks drew 9,107 for their home conference opener against Portland State at the end of September. That dropped to just under 8,000 for the next home game against UC Davis, despite the fact that the team was undefeated – and it was Homecoming!
Maybe the fact that there are just two home games left on the schedule -and Souers is putting an exciting product on the field – will bring the fans back out next weekend.
After all, temperatures haven’t dipped into the freezing range yet…and there’s no snow on the ground.
And the team is red hot.
(Photo: NAU Athletics)