Defense dominates as NAU routs No. 7 Montana
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) -- Northern Arizona's defense returned two fumbles for scores, including Ryan Reardon's 98-yarder, and smothered the Montana offense in a 34-16 victory Saturday night.
Trailing 14-3 in the second quarter, the seventh-ranked Grizzlies had fourth-and-goal at the 2-yard line when Jordan Johnson fumbled near the goal line. Reardon picked it up and went the length of the field to give the Lumberjacks (3-1, 1-0 Big Sky) a 21-3 lead. The Grizzlies opened the third quarter with another fumble, and Marcus Alford's 22-yard return made it 28-3.
“I am very proud of all members of our football program,” said NAU coach Jerome Souers. “Our coaching staff prepared our team very well, and
both (Rich) Scangarello and (Andy) Thompson called a great game.”
NAU's Zach Bauman rushed for 118 yards and scored back-to-back touchdowns in the first quarter, including one from 41 yards out, to give the 22nd-ranked Lumberjacks an early 14-0 lead.
Montana (3-1, 0-1) finally scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter when Johnson tossed a 15-yard score to Mitch Saylor. Johnson finished 17 of 38 for 292 yards and two touchdowns.
For NAU, quarterback Kyren Poe went 22 of 30 for 242 yards and an interception.
The Grizzlies entered the game with the best passing efficiency in the FCS but managed only a field goal until late.
“The defense has been the cornerstone of our program,” said Souers. “They have been the leaders, and those two scores helped carry this team to today’s win.”
Lumberjacks kicker Andy Wilder recorded his first field goals this season in the fourth quarter. Wilder hit a 23-yard field goal with 7:50 on the clock, then connected on a 46-yarder with 5:01 left to play.
NAU finished with 416 yards of total offense while holding Montana to 347 total yards in extending its win streak to three games.
“I have been here for three years now, and that was the most electrifying crowd I have ever been around,” said Poe. “I hope they can keep it up, because it makes us play better and we feed off the dome-field advantage."