BOZEMAN — Northern Arizona still has goals it wants to accomplish in Jerome Souers’ final season as coach. Competing for the Big Sky Conference crown is one of them.
The Lumberjacks got Souers final conference run started the right way Saturday with a 28-10 victory in their conference opener at Cal Poly. It was NAU’s first win of the season.
Completing passes to 10 different receivers, quarterback Case Cookus led the way for the Lumberjacks, throwing for 406 yards and four touchdowns. Receiver Elijah Marks had 14 catches for 206 yards — the top total in the league this season — and two TDs.
The game was played without two of the Big Sky’s biggest stars: NAU receiver Emmanuel Butler and Cal Poly fullback Joe Protheroe. Each suffered a season-ending injury.
With Protheroe out, the Mustangs were held to 178 rushing yards — well below their typical 300-plus-yard output. NAU safety Wes Sutton made seven tackles (two for loss) and had a key interception in the end zone to thwart a potential scoring drive. Sutton was named the Big Sky’s defensive player of the week on Monday.
The conference win was the 77th of Souers’ 20-year tenure at NAU. It was announced two weeks ago that Souers will not return as coach after this season.
"Losing (Butler), he's a tough guy to replace. Not just his ability as a playmaker, but his leadership," Souers told the Arizona Daily Sun. "I thought our offense did a great job of playing inspired and Elijah Marks in particular coming up with some huge plays for us in huge situations."
Eastern Washington’s second-half comeback against Montana — the Eagles scored 42 points after halftime to pull out a 48-41 victory — marked a continuation of its supremacy in its rivalry with the Grizzlies.
The Eagles have now beaten Montana in seven of their past nine meetings. The Grizzlies’ wins in that stretch came in 2015 and 2011, both times in Missoula. The Eagles have won six games at Washington-Grizzly Stadium since 1990.
Quarterback Gage Gubrud threw for a school-record 549 yards and accounted for five touchdowns against the Griz on Saturday. On Monday Gubrud was a co-recipient of the Big Sky offensive player of the week. It was the second straight week in which Gubrud took home the honor.
According to an EWU press release, it was the 13th 300-yard passing game of Gubrud’s career, and his seventh game with at least 400 yards. Gubrud reached the 500-yard mark once before — against Montana State last season when he passed for 520 yards.
A huge day
Gubrud shared the player of the week award with Sacramento State QB Kevin Thomson.
Thomson threw for 253 yards and three touchdowns, but also rushed for 149 yards and four TDs as the Hornets beat up Southern Utah 54-27. Per the league, Thomson’s rushing total was the most ever for a Sacramento State quarterback.
By virtue of his seven-touchdown performance, Thomson was named the national offensive player of the week by STATS.
Weber State running back Treshawn Garrett tied a Big Sky Conference record when he raced 98 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter of the Wildcats’ 41-3 trouncing of UC Davis. According to a report in the Standard-Examiner in Ogden, Utah, the run broke a 46-year-old school mark.
Garrett finished with a game-high 122 rushing yards, and Wildcats’ quarterback Stefan Cantwell threw for 205 yards and three touchdowns.
Big plays were the story of the game. Aside from Garrett’s length-of-the-field dash, Cantwell found Rashid Shaheed for a 67-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, and Xequille Harry raced 84 yards for another score on a punt return.
The Wildcats had the ball for less than eight minutes in the first half but still went into the locker room with a 31-3 advantage at halftime.
By virtue of its win at Montana, Eastern Washington (2-2) moved ahead two spots to No. 9 in the latest Top 25 FCS poll, which was released Monday by STATS. Weber State (3-1), after rolling over UC Davis, jumped up three spots to No. 20.
North Dakota (1-3) dropped out of the poll following a 49-21 home loss to Montana State.
The Grizzlies and Bobcats appeared in the “others receiving votes” category. Montana received 38 points while the Bobcats had 28. Sacramento State (two points) and NAU (one point) also made the list.
Nationally, the top five remained intact with defending national champion James Madison (4-0) again at No. 1. North Dakota State (3-0), Sam Houston State (3-0), South Dakota State (3-0) and Jacksonville State (2-1) rounded out the group.
Around the league
Northern Colorado K Collin Root was named the Big Sky’s special teams player of the week. Root made three field goals Saturday against Idaho State, including a 37-yarder as time expired to lift the Bears to a 43-42 victory. ... ISU RB James Madison rushed for a career high 253 yards against UNC. ... Due to an injury, Southern Utah QB Patrick Tyler did not play in the Thunderbirds’ loss to Sacramento State.