Lumberjacks set to host N.M. Highlands in home opener

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — With just a week before it begins Big Sky Conference play, Northern Arizona on Saturday plays its first home game.

The Lumberjacks host Division II New Mexico Highlands on Saturday afternoon at the Walkup Skydome.

This is the third straight year NAU and New Mexico Highlands play each other in the Lumberjacks’ home opener. NAU won the past six meetings, dating back to 1972, including the last year’s 41-5 victory.

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NAU is 14-2 at home the last three seasons. It is 77-22-2 all-time in home openers. NAU has won each home opener dating back to 1993.

Las week, the Lumberjacks faltered on the road at No. 18 Western Illinois, falling 34-20. In two games, NAU has generated 850 yards of total offense behind the quarterback play of sophomore Case Cookus. Top targets juniors Elijah Marks and Emmanuel Butler, have scored three of NAU’s four touchdowns. The duo has combined for 460 receiving yards to help lead NAU’s offensive front.

NAU was voted No. 24 in both the FCS STATS and Coaches’ polls released this week by both organizations. The Lumberjacks are ranked for the second week in a row.

New Mexico Highlands is 0-2 to start the 2016 season. The Cowboys opened with a 21-14 loss at Dixie State and then fell 54-14 to Colorado Mines last week at home.

Former NAU quarterback Jason Murrietta is a member of the 2016 NAU Athletics Hall of Fame Class. He quarterbacked NAU to a Big Sky Championship crown and its first Division I playoff win in 2003 with an upset over No. 1 McNeese State.

Murrietta was twice named the Big Sky Offensive Most Valuable Player (2003, 2006), and was a three-time All-Big Sky honoree. He earned 2006 All-American accolades from The Sports Network, The Associated Press, and The Football Gazette.