FCS Playoffs: San Diego at Northern Arizona
FCS Playoffs First Round
The Matchup - San Diego (9-2) at Northern Arizona (7-4)
Kickoff - 8 p.m. ET Saturday at J. Lawrence Walkup Skydome (10,000) in Flagstaff, Arizona
Coverage - ESPN3
Series - Northern Arizona leads 2-0-1 (last meeting: 14-14 tie in 1960)
Players to Watch - San Diego: QB Anthony Lawrence (216 of 321, 2,796 yards, 30 TDs, 2 INTs), RB Emilio Martinez (164 carries, 894 yards, 9 TDs), WR Justin Priest (66 receptions, 954 yards, 12 TDs), DE Jonathan Petersen (39 TT, 20 TFL, 13 Sacks, 5 FF); Northern Arizona: QB Case Cookus (253 of 433, 3,235 yards, 21 TDs, 5 INTs), RB Joe Logan (136 carries, 650 yards, 6 TDs), WR Elijah Marks (71 receptions, 1,170 yards, 6 TDs), S Wes Sutton (72 TT, 2 INTs, 3 PBU)
The Skinny - The Lawrence-vs.-Cookus quarterback matchup is outstanding. San Diego is back in the FCS playoffs for the third time in four seasons, having given the Pioneer Football League its first win a year ago (35-21 at Cal Poly in the first round). Lawrence ranks in the FCS top five in completion percentage (67.3), passing efficiency (170.1) and touchdown passes (30). While Priest has put up big numbers, tight end Ross Dwelley (41 catches, 8 TDs) is a terrific go-to target in the red zone. The Toreros are the best in the FCS at converting third downs (51.8 percent). Northern Arizona must keep FCS sack leader Petersen away from Cookus, who has thrown for 46 TDs against only nine interceptions in 13 career home games. But the Lumberjacks also have an excellent tag-team at running back with Logan and Cory Young (739 yards, 8 TDs). The Lumberjacks have been outstanding against the pass, tallying 16 interceptions.
Up Next - The winner plays at No. 2 seed North Dakota State (10-1) in the second round Dec. 2.
Prediction - San Diego isn't as strong as last year's team that beat a Big Sky opponent in the first round. Northern Arizona, 31-19.