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NAU rallies from 17 down to stun Sacramento State

Cartwright throws four TD passes in relief as NAU pulls off huge rally, stuns Sacramento State 39-38.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Junior quarterback Chase Cartwright came up big for Northern Arizona on Saturday, as the Lumberjacks pulled off a 17-point comeback after trailing by double digits late in the third quarter to earn a 39-38 win and hand Sacramento State its first Big Sky loss of the season.


NAU trailed by 31-14 with 8:02 to play in the third quarter when coach Jerome Souers turned to Cartwright at quarterback. Eight plays later, Cartwright delivered a 42-yard touchdown pass to Nick Cole to trim the deficit to 10.


After a 50-yard touchdown run re-extended the margin to 38-21 with 3:24 to go in the quarter, Cartwright connected on another scoring pass, this one to Jesse Brantley with 1:10 left in the third quarter to get NAU back within 38-27.


The Lumberjacks then forced a punt to start the fourth quarter and followed that up by rattling off a five-play, 66-yard drive that ended when Cartwright found R.J. Rickert in the end zone for a four-yard touchdown.


Sacramento native Lucky Dozier then came up huge on the ensuing possession, intercepting Sacramento State quarterback Garrett Safron on the Hornets' first play. NAU running back Zach Bauman took advantage of the opportunity, going 25 yards on a handoff to give the Lumberjacks their first lead of the game, 38-37, at the 12:16 mark of the fourth quarter.


There would be no more scoring.


Cartwright finished the game 16 for 19 for 208 yards and four touchdowns, all to different receivers, to set an NAU season high for touchdown passes in a game despite playing less than a half.


“We knew looking at our schedule that these first three games were going to be tough,” said NAU coach Jerome Souers. “We have a lot of respect for Sacramento State. I think our guys showed a lot of character today. The team rallied behind Chase, and the defense made some plays in the fourth quarter that gave us the win.”


Sacramento State struck first with a 32-yard field goal with 8:30 to go in the first quarter, but NAU bounced back on the following possession when Bauman ran it in from 7 yards out to make it 7-3.


The Lumberjacks (4-2, 2-1 Big Sky) were able to extend their lead to 14-3 early in the second quarter when starting quarterback Kyren Poe found Alex Holmes in the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown pass. The Hornets answered with a score before the break, making the score 14-10 NAU at the half.


Moments into the third quarter, Saffron connected on a 22-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Carter to give the home team its first lead. Less than two minutes later, the Hornets were added to the margin when Robert Beale picked off Poe and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown to make it 24-14.


Shortly thereafter, the Hornets picked off another Poe pass, this one setting up a 10-yard touchdown run by Jordan Robinson that gave Sacramento State a 31-14 edge and set up NAU's comeback behind Cartwright.


Safron was 16 of 33 for 220 yards passing and rushed 10 times for 110 yards for the Hornets (3-4, 2-1 Big Sky).