NAU opens 2015 at No. 24 Stephen F. Austin

Nick Butier is one of four All-Big Sky returners for NAU this year. The Lumberjacks open their season Saturday at Stephen F. Austin.

Don Boomer

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Head coach Jerome Souers begins his 18th season at the helm and the Lumberjacks celebrate 100 years as a program as Northern Arizona opens the 2015 season Saturday at Stephen F. Austin.

For the second straight year, NAU plays in the Lone Star State — Abilene Christian last season. The matchup marks the first time NAU plays an FCS opponent in its season opener since 2003.

Souers named redshirt freshman Case Cookus the starting quarterback.

The Lumberjacks take the field on Saturday with seven returning starters on offense and six on defense. All-Big Sky Preseason picks RJ Rickert, Nick Butier, Marcus Alford and Ryan Hawkins will lead NAU in its 2015 debut.

NAU went 7-5 last season, 5-3 in the Big Sky. The Lumberjacks were picked to finish fifth/sixth in the conference preseason polls released in July.

Stephen F. Austin coach Clint Conque earned Southland Conference Big Sky Coach of the Year honors last season after he led the SFA to an 8-5 record and FCS playoff appearance in his first year. SFA enters 2015 ranked No. 24 in the STATS LLC preseason poll.

SFA lost the 2014 SLC player of the year in running back Gus Johnson, but returns the conference’s newcomer of the year in quarterback Zach Conque. Conque and SFA had the ninth-best completion percentage in the FCS last season at 65.5.