Football Prepares For Showdown at NAU
Northern Arizona is coming off an overtime loss to #4 Montana, 41-34... Last season's game came down to the final play when the Bears went for two after a touchdown and fumbled the snap, falling 25-22 to the ‘Jacks... NAU has won the last six games between the two teams, dating back to 1978 when the Bears defeated the Lumberjacks 33-6 on Homecoming... The game is a rare doubleheader as NC volleyball plays at NAU at 7:00 on Saturday... The Bears have three Arizona players on their roster in freshmen Ryan Holmes, David Kraus and Pasi Fahina, all of whom are redshirting... NC junior running back Andre Harris attended Taft High School along with NAU senior defensive back Anthony Evans... NAU has one Colorado player on its roster in sophomore kicker Drew Zamora from Rampart HS in Colorado Springs... The two teams have yet to play any common opponents this season.
On Saturday against Montana State, three Northern Colorado defensive players registered double figures in tackles. It is the first time since Nov. 26, 2005 against UC Davis the Bears had three players with 10 or more tackles. Junior cornerback Korey Askew led the team with a career-best 11 tackles, while senior safety Stephen Michon and junior linebacker Matt King each had 10 stops.
Kicking In The Kamans
Sophomore punter Cameron Kaman tallied two punts over 50 yards against Montana State, giving him 12 in his career to travel at least half the field. Kaman also pinned the Bobcats inside the 20 twice.
Scouting Northern Arizona
The Lumberjacks are 1-2 on the season with an 0-1 mark in Big Sky Conference play, falling 41-34 in overtime to #4 Montana. NAU ranks third in the conference averaging 307.7 passing yards per game, while the Bears are the top team in pass defense allowing 164.8 a contest. The ‘Jacks also rank first in the league in pass efficiency (165.0), while the Bears are second in pass efficiency defense (120.9).
A Win Would...
- be the first road victory for the Bears in Big Sky Conference play since joining the league in 2006.
- snap an 18-game road losing streak. The Bears last road win came on Sept. 16, 2006 at Texas State (14-13).
- give the Bears two wins on the season and their first Big Sky victory of the year.
- snap a six-game losing streak against Northern Arizona.
Northern Colorado currently ranks 23rd in the nation in kickoff returns, averaging 23.64 yards per return. The Bears also rank 30th in pass defense, allowing just 164.75 yards per game through the air. Individually, junior running back Andre Harris ranks 36th in the FCS rankings in rushing yardage, averaging 80.75 per game and senior Ryan Lutz ranks 39th in punt return yardage at 6.38 per carry.
For the second straight game, the Bears recorded double figures in tackles for loss, tallying 12.0 against Montana State. It is the highest total since the Bears began the transition to Division I in 2003. Against Adams State on Oct. 25, 2003 the team tallied 11.0 tackles for loss. The Bears also recorded 10.0 tackles for loss at Eastern Washington. The 22 tackles for loss in Big Sky games is tops in the league.
Schools From Arizona
Northern Colorado is 2-9 all-time against schools from the state of Arizona (0-2 Arizona State, 2-7 Northern Arizona).
The key to Northern Colorado's success might be the timing of the first score. When the Bears are on the scoreboard first, they are 4-7 since head coach Scott Downing took over the program. When the opponent scores first, NC is 0-26. The Bears are also 0-22 when they trail after the first quarter but 3-5 when they lead after the first 15 minutes of play.
And 1 Makes 28
Senior safety Stephen Michon has the longest active starting streak on the team at 27 games, almost double any other player on the squad. The next longest streak is 15 games by Martin Awachie, Dominique Ceja, Max Hewitt, Cameron Kaman and Bryan Waggener.
Bears Defense Passes Test
Northern Colorado leads the Big Sky Conference and ranks 30th in pass defense, allowing 164.8 yards per game through the air. The Bears have had four interceptions and two fumble recoveries in the first four games.
He's Very Active
Senior quarterback Bryan Waggener currently ranks on the NCAA FCS active career leaders list in passing attempts per game (6th, 33.5/gm), passing yards per game (10th, 210.7) and passing completions per game (11th, 19.1). Sophomore punter Cameron Kaman also ranks 14th in average per punt among career active leaders (39.82).
No Easy Weeks
This is the fifth straight game this season for the Bears against a team either ranked or receiving votes in the national polls. Northern Arizona is getting votes in both the Sports Network and the FCS Coaches Poll.
Notes From MSU Game
- Sophomore punter Cameron Kaman had two punts for over 50 yards (53, 56), giving him 12 punts in his career for 50 or more.
- For the third time in four games this season, junior cornerback Korey Askew tallied a career-high in tackles, this time with 11. He bettered his previous high of 10 from the game against San Diego.
- Seniors Ryan Lutz and Stephen Michon both tallied their first career sacks. Both were for a loss of seven yards each. Junior linebacker Matt King tallied his second sack of the season and third of his career, pushing MSU back 11 yards.
- King tallied a season-best 10 tackles, including 1.5 for loss, bettering his previous high of nine from the game against San Diego and was one shy of his career-best of 11 from Sacramento State in 2007.
- Senior linebacker Logan Zabel tied his career high with seven tackles, knotting his high from the Montana game last season.
- Junior wide receiver Denzel Hutchings caught his first career pass for the Bears and it was for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Hutchings was one of seven student-athletes to catch a pass and one of 11 to catch a pass this season.
Paper or Plastic?
Sophomore Nick Hernon tallied 2.5 sacks in the game against Eastern Washington. It is the most sacks in a single game since Kurt Hout tallied 2.5 against Fort Lewis on Oct. 29, 2005. Hernon also tied his career-high with six tackles in the game.
Defense To Offense
Northern Colorado has forced at least one turnover in 18 of the team's last 19 games against FCS competition. Over those 18 games, the Bears have forced 25 fumbles and picked off 26 passes.
It's An Honor
Junior running back Andre Harris was named the Big Sky Conference offensive player of the week after rushing for 152 yards in the Bears' 31-12 victory over San Diego. Harris averaged 7.6 yards per carry, scoring two touchdowns. Harris also caught four passes for 37 yards, giving him 189 all-purpose yards. His 152 rushing yards is the most at Northern Colorado since Andre Wilson rushed for 158 against Western Illinois on Sept. 23, 2006.
Northern Colorado defenders intercepted four passes in the win over San Diego. It is the most since the Bears' picked four passes against Idaho State last season on Oct. 11 and the third straight year NC has had four interceptions in a single game. Four different student-athletes recorded a pick as junior Korey Askew, junior Max Hewitt, sophomore Chuks Nweke and senior Quincy Wofford each had one.
In the first quarter against San Diego, senior quarterback Bryan Waggener connected with senior wide receiver Alex Thompson for an 80-yard touchdown. It ties for the fifth-longest passing play in school history. Corte McGuffey passed to current running backs coach Keith Grable against Adams State in 1998 and Nick Hager completed an 80-yard pass to Cory Sleeth against Colorado School of Mines in 2005.
Senior Ryan Lutz has tallied 83 punt return yards this season, already surpassing the team totals from 2007 and 2008. In 2008, the Bears had just 74 punt return yards total, while in 2007 they amassed just 77 yards. Lutz currently ranks second in the Big Sky Conference averaging 6.4 yards per return.
Hitting The Mark
- Senior wide receiver Alex Thompson passed the 1,000 all purpose yard total against Montana State and now has 1,022 yards in 15 games with the Bears.
- Senior defensive lineman Martin Awachie recorded his 50th career tackle against the Bobcats.
For the first time since 2006, Northern Colorado plays more home games than road games as the Bears had the first of six at Nottingham Field on Saturday.
There are two ways to catch Coach Scott Downing during the week. Monday nights on 1310 AM KFKA is the head coaches show from 6-7 at Coyotes. On Friday nights at 6:30 on CBS Northern Colorado 5, watch Downing and volleyball coach Lyndsey Benson alongside host Ben Howell.
What To Look For
- Junior Max Hewitt tallied his seventh career interception against San Diego and now has 98 return yards in his career, needing just two more for 100.
- Hewitt is also just eight tackles shy of 150 for his career.
- Senior Quincy Wofford is now just 38 yards shy of 500 all-purpose yards in his career and is six tackles shy of 100.
- Junior Andre Harris needs just 63 yards for 500 all-purpose yards this season.
Several Bears received preseason attention from various publications. Senior quarterback Bryan Waggener was named a 2009 Consensus Draft Services Preseason All-American Honorable Mention while senior kicker Michael York was named to the Phil Steele Preseason All-Big Sky Conference First Team and junior linebacker John Eddy was named to the Second Team.
Bears Story Lines
- Junior James Schrenk made the move from quarterback to linebacker during spring drills and is first on the depth chart.
- Redshirt freshman Darin McDonald joins the Bears team after a short stint at Wyoming. Prior to that, he spent three seasons in the Philadelphia Phillies minor league baseball system.
- Junior college transfer Andre Harris came to Northern Colorado for fall camp. He is considered one of the top running backs from California by several agencies.
- The Bears return all eight on the depth chart among defensive linemen from a year ago.
- Three players, safety Ryan Lutz, defensive back C.J. Stemo and kicker Michael York have all received their bachelor's degrees and have begun work on their masters.
- Northern Colorado athletics ranks first in the Big Sky Conference in graduation success rate, with last year's rate at 93%.
- Two upperclassmen on the team, junior kicker Zak Bigelow and junior offensive lineman Tim McGraw both have perfect 4.00 grade point averages and are in the Monfort College of Business.
- A total of 13 student-athletes were named to the Monfort College of Business Dean's Citation List and five were from football. Junior Zak Bigelow, junior Matt McDonnell, junior Tim McGraw, sophomore Chuks Nweke and senior Michael York were all honored.
- Both junior wide receiver Brandon Smith and senior offensive lineman Ryan Kemp are out for the remainder of the season with injuries. James Zapp (OL), Nick Candler (OL), Dominic Gunn (WR) and Andrew Emmerling (TE) are also currently out with injuries.
This season, head coach Scott Downing decided to have a council of players who would lead the team and take more of a leadership role instead of the more traditional 2-3 captains. Those players, elected by their teammates are: junior Zak Bigelow, freshman John Burnley, freshman Cameron Friend, senior Chris Jones, senior Ryan Kemp, senior Ryan Lutz, junior Tim McGraw, sophomore Chuks Nweke, sophomore Dylan Orms, sophomore Colby Riggins, junior James Schrenk, senior C.J. Stemo, senior Thomas Stuemky, freshman Curtis Truett and junior Michael Van Portfliet.