NAU football hosts 9th-ranked Montana State

FLAGSTAFF — The Northern Arizona football team returns home for the first time in 44 days after playing four consecutive road games over a five-week period, hosting ninth-ranked Montana State at 3 p.m. at the Walkup Skydome in the annual Family Weekend game.

NAU is 2-7 overall since 2000 against Top-10 ranked teams, with the two victories coming against Portland State and McNeese State (No. 1, 2003).

The Lumberjacks (3-2, 1-1 Big Sky) are coming off a 21-14 loss at Eastern Washington. They lead the all-time series with Montana State 23-21 after winning in Bozeman last season 23-10 behind Michael Herrick’s 388-yard passing game. The series has provided some tight games over the last 13 games, with nine decided by a touchdown or less and four decided by four points or less. The visiting team has won the last four meetings in the series, and the Bobcats have won their last three games in Flagstaff.

NAU has forced 15 turnovers this season, including five last week at Eastern Washington. The Lumberjacks rank in the top 20 nationally in five defensive categories, including rush defense (4th), total defense (11th), turnover margin (T12th), scoring defense (14th) and sacks (16th).

Freshman running back Zach Bauman has rushed for more than 100 yards in three of first five games and has 478 yards for the season.

Montana State leads the Big Sky in scoring (44.5), rushing (233.3) and total offense (516.2) and is second in the nation in scoring and total offense. NAU leads the league in rushing defense, allowing 80.4 yards per game and is giving up a Big Sky-leading 18.4 points per game.

The Bobcats (5-1, 3-0 Big Sky) are coming off a 44-31 victory over Portland State and are off to their best start since 1978. Freshman quarterback Denarius McGhee has throw for 591 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions in his last two games. McGhee leads the league in pass efficiency and is the highest-ranking freshman in the nation in passing yards per game, passing efficiency and total offense.