Coming off upset win, NAU takes on Fort Lewis

Coming off upset win, NAU takes on Fort Lewis

Published Sep. 14, 2012 5:57 p.m. ET

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Coming off an upset win over UNLV last Saturday, Northern Arizona team returns home to host Fort Lewis College in the 2012 home opener Saturday.

NAU accomplished something last week that it hadn't done in 25 years by beating a Football Bowl Subdivision team. The Lumberjacks snapped a 21-game FBS losing streak dating to a win at Tulsa during the 1987 season, before any current player on the roster had been born.

"I think I am proudest of what the difference of nine days can make," said NAU coach Jerome Souers. "Our kids came back and practiced hard and they got much better. When they play better, this is what happens. I am proud of their effort, their attitude and their willingness to stay at it. It says a lot about the character of the program and the direction that we are going."

That direction is up for a number of reasons. Trailing 14-0 early in the second quarter last week, the Lumberjacks shut out UNLV over the final 43-plus minutes of the game to set up the comeback. Senior Austin Shanks provided the big play that is so often needed in an upset, sophomore Chase Cartwright led the late-game rally with two huge touchdown drives in the decisive fourth quarter in his first career start, and sophomore kicker Andy Wilder made his first career field goal a memorable one, hitting the game winner with just 12 seconds to play.

The postgame celebration was a satisfying one for a team that lost several close games last season and opened the 2012 season with a blowout loss at Arizona State. A week later, everything has changed.

After playing two consecutive games on the road to start the season, the Lumberjacks are excited to hit the field in front of their home crowd for the first time this year. The team will take the field Saturday against Fort Lewis with the support of the annual "Running of the Freshmen."

Fort Lewis is a Division II school located in Durango, Colo., that plays
in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. NAU and Fort Lewis will be
meeting for the second consecutive season and third time in school
history. The two schools met for the first time in the 1965 season. This year's meeting is the last game on the nonconference portion of the schedule for NAU, which begins Big Sky place next week.

"This sets up real nice," said Shanks. "We have Fort Lewis next. We are going to play them hard and into the conference we go. We are ready."