FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — A year ago, Northern Arizona senior quarterback Cary Grossart made his first career start in a game against Arizona. He went on to have a solid year, albeit in a season that did not reach expectations for the team in the win column. He hopes to learn from that experience leading into the season opener at Arizona State and the upcoming campaign.
“In my first start, I am going through a ton of things in my mind,” recalls Grossart. “You want to stay relaxed, but from the fans to the new HD scoreboard and seeing them across the field, it is hard to prepare for that setting. Once you see it and it is game time, it is an experience you will never have until you are there.”
Grossart went 20 for 26 for 179 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the Lumberjacks’ 41-10 loss to the Wildcats. He led NAU on two scoring drives in the second quarter to close the score to 14-10 at the half and completed 16 consecutive passes, two short of the school record held by current assistant Jeff Lewis. His interception on the first NAU play of the third quarter changed the momentum.
“This year, I am trying to remember where I was and stay calm and focus on our team,” said Grossart.
Grossart was a third-team All-America selection by Beyond Sports College Network and garnered All-Big Sky honorable-mention honors after ranking third in the Big Sky in passing yards per game at 249.5. He completed 197 of 299 passes with 16 touchdowns and just seven interceptions and had at least one touchdown pass in 10 of 11 games, including five games with two or more.
“Before, I knew I was a good player and coming out of camp that I was going to play well,” said Grossart. “But I had not played. Now, I know and I am confident, and whatever nervousness or anxiety you have is calmed by that. Looking at the guys around me, I think we have a better team, and it makes my job easier.”
New offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello likes what he has seen in camp from his starter.
“Cary Grossart has done a remarkable job and had a great fall camp,” said Scangarello. “I think he is going to have an All-Big Sky-type year, and I think he can lead us to where we want to go. He has the complete skills and the leadership capabilities, with the experience last year putting him in a position to be successful.”
Grossart hopes to improve most on his late-game production. He ranked first in the Big Sky and fifth in FCS in passing efficiency (156.0) last season, but more important than the numbers is that the Lumberjacks simply win more games.
“Throughout the game I was efficient and made some short throws and longer throws, the throws I need to make,” said Grossart. “Whenever it came to the end of games, it was not always smooth. I wish they had a stat for fourth-quarter efficiency because that is when you have to be efficient. I was not always. If I can make those throws in the fourth quarter, we are going to win more games.”
NAU coach Jerome Souers is excited about the experience at the position for this year.
“There is no substitute for experience at the quarterback position, and having a rallying point for the offense always centers around the quarterback,” said Souers. “Cary’s experience gives us a lot more continuity and confidence that we lacked before.”
Grossart will be backed up by redshirt sophomore Chase Cartwright, with redshirt freshmen Kyren Poe and Jordan Perry waiting for an opportunity to contribute.
“We have a unique position in that we have four quarterbacks capable of running our offense and are ready to go,” said Souers. “We have more depth at that position than any time I can remember.”
Cartwright will backup Grossart after competing for the job during the spring and fall, showcasing his abilities.
“Without question, Chase is ready to play,” said Scangarello. “There might not be a better backup in the country at this level. He is very professional to his approach and his preparation. His knowledge of the game, physical skills and fundamentals have got better and better. Quite honestly, he is ready to be a starting quarterback at Northern Arizona as well.”