Wilson Becomes Northern Colorado's All-Time Leading Rusher in Season Finale
GREELEY, Colo. - Senior running back Andre Wilson immortalized himself into University of Northern Colorado football history on Saturday at Nottingham Field as he rushed for 136 yards and became the Bears' all-time leading rusher with 3,561 career yards.
Wilson, well known as humble and a team player, stole the show in Northern Colorado's 54-3 season-closing loss to Big Sky Conference foe Northern Arizona. He passed Billy Holmes' mark of 3,519 yards midway through the first quarter when he broke a 45-yard run. After the play, Bears head coach Scott Downing called time out and presented Wilson with the game ball.
Wilson also finished the year with 1,027 yards on the ground, making it his second season in-a-row with 1000-plus rushing yards. It made him just the fourth Bear to put together consecutive 1000 yard seasons along with Holmes and Adam Matthews, who are No. 2 and 3 on the Northern Colorado career rushing list.
Before the game, 22 seniors (14 football players, four student trainers and four student managers) were honored in their last game ever at Northern Colorado. Among those honored were defensive lineman Robert Baker, swide receiver Zac Carlson, defensive lineman Trent Dietz, kicker David Dyches, offensive lineman Bret Garegnani, defensive back Jason Hildenbrand, wide receiver Robert Long, offensive lineman John Pryor, defensive lineman Shawn Sopoaga, defensive back Matt Thomas, fullback Jahir Waterman, defensive lineman Matt West, defensive back Sirwestly Williams and Wilson.
Northern Arizona (6-5, 5-3 Big Sky Conference) was led offensively by prolific senior quarterback and Walter Payton Award candidate Jason Murrietta, who finished 29-of-41 for 381 yards with five touchdown passes, making him No. 2 all-time in Big Sky Conference history with 94 career touchdowns behind Montana's Dave Dickenson. NAU wide receiver Alex Watson pulled in 12 catches for 119 yards and three touchdowns.
On Northern Colorado's first drive, the Bears pushed the ball down to the Northern Arizona 19-yard line, setting up a 37-yard field goal by senior David Dyches. NAU answered back with a touchdown catch by Watson from Murietta with 7:10 left in the first quarter to take a 7-3 lead. From there, the Lumberjacks didn't look back, scoring 21 points in the second quarter, 17 points in the third quarter and nine points in the fourth.
With the loss, Northern Colorado finished 1-10 and 0-8 in the Big Sky Conference. The Bears' lone win came over then-No. 23 Texas State with a 14-13 decision on Sept. 16 in an emotional down-to-the-wire win. Northern Colorado played with a young team in Downing's first season, with 14 redshirt or true freshmen receiving playing time.
The Bears will now go into the offseason and prepare for next year, with spring practice beginning in April. Northern Colorado is expected to return game-breaking wide receiver Andy Birkel, who redshirted this season after sustaining a season-ending knee injury in fall camp.