FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - For the second straight season it came down to the final play of the game, and for the second year, Northern Arizona football pulled off the victory over Northern Colorado, winning 35-27. With the loss, the Bears fall to 1-4 on the season and 0-3 in Big Sky Conference action while the Lumberjacks move to 2-2 on the year and 1-1 in league play.
Senior wide receiver Alex Thompson had a career-day, catching 12 passes for 164 yards and three touchdowns. His 12 catches ties for the second-most in school history, while his three touchdowns ties for third most and is the second highest total. Senior quarterback Bryan Waggener completed 28-for-48 for 292 yards and two touchdowns. Freshman running back John Burnley led the team with 48 rushing yards on 16 attempts.
Defensively, senior safety Stephen Michon had a team-best eight tackles and junior linebacker John Eddy, in his first game back, forced two fumbles and had the team's lone quarterback hurry. Senior Michael York made two field goals, one for 19 yards and one for 34 yards.
"Obviously, I'm disappointed we lost the game," said Head Coach Scott Downing. "We had some opportunities to win it. I thought we came in and played very, very well. We gave up a couple of big plays to some pretty good players at NAU, make no doubt about it, they played hard to come back and really get after us in the second half. I thought our players executed well on both offense and defense for the most part. I was really proud of our offense. After last week against Montana State and Eastern Washington, they came in and put up quite a few points and had our opportunities to score more."
Northern Arizona was led by Alex Henderson who had 160 rushing yards and one touchdown on 19 carries, while Ed Berry caught five passes for 140 yards and one touchdown. Quarterback Michael Herrick completed 19-of-30 passes for 277 yards and four scores.
Northern Colorado struck first, scoring on its opening possession, a 6-play 67-yard drive. Thompson had a 36-yard touchdown reception from Waggener for the 7-0 lead. On the following drive, Northern Arizona missed on a 47-yard field goal attempt. The ‘Jacks scored with a touchdown of their own with 13:03 on the clock in the second quarter, knotting the score at 7-7.
Orms found the favorite target of the afternoon, Thompson for a touchdown with 4:18 on the clock in the second quarter. Thompson's reception was for 37 yards, giving the Bears a 14-7 advantage. Thompson added his third touchdown, a 10-yard pass from Waggener with 1:37 remaining in the half to take a 21-7 lead. With 11.5 seconds on the clock before the halftime break, Northern Arizona scored another touchdown to make the score 21-14.
Northern Arizona scored on its opening possession of the third quarter, tying the score on a 69-yard scamper by Alex Henderson. The Lumberjacks scored on another big play, an 81-yard touchdown reception from Herrick to Ed Berry to give them a 28-21 advantage with 4:20 remaining in the third quarter.
The Bears missed an opportunity to cut into the lead early in the fourth quarter as Michael York missed a 32-yard field goal to the right. The defense again stepped up, as senior Logan Zabel recovered a fumble two plays later on the 21-yard line. York redeemed himself, adding three points on a 19-yard field goal with 11:35 to play for the 28-24 score.
On the very next possession for Northern Arizona, the Bears defense again forced and recovered another fumble. York made his second field goal of the game, a 34-yarder to pull the Bears within one, 28-27 with 8:10 remaining.
The Lumberjacks scored with 6:55 left to make the score 35-27 and the Bears had an 18-play drive to end the game, but couldn't find the endzone.
The Bears return home to host Portland State next Saturday for Homecoming. Game time is set for 1:35 p.m.