NAU notebook: Wilder, Dosen come up big
By Steve Shaff
NAU Sports Information
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Junior kicker Andy Wilder waited for his chance to play a major role on the Northern Arizona football team, totaling just 11 kicks over his first three seasons in the program. That chances has arrived, as Wilder having a big impact and playing a starring role in what's become a historic season for the 7-1 Lumberjacks.
The Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep product actually lost the kicking job out of camp to freshman Ryan Hawkins, and he was slotted to handle punt and kickoff duties heading into the season. Wilder punted against Arizona State, but he was called on in the kicking game in the second game of the season against UNLV. After having his first kick blocked, Wilder nailed a 33-yarder for the game winner and his first career field goal, securing NAU's first win over a Football Bowl Subdivision team since 1987. He was named Big Sky co-Special Teams Player of the Week and national Punter of the Week for his efforts.
When the Lumberjacks lost the lead to Northern Colorado last Saturday late in the fourth quarter, Wilder knew he might have another chance to help his team earn a win.
“I knew it was going to come down to a field goal or the team would end up scoring,” said Wilder. “I was just trying to keep my calm and take deep breaths. I was envisioning the game-winning kick against Las Vegas and hitting the ball solid, getting it over the line and straight through the up rights.”
Quarterback Cary Grossart led the offense down the field, and the Lumberjacks had two attempts inside the 5-yard line to score the winning points. Running back Zach Bauman’s last run came up just short, though, setting up the field-goal attempt that Wilder hit perfectly to propel NAU to a 12-10 victory over Northern Colorado.
“It felt pretty good,” said Wilder. “When it comes down to that situation, it is time for me to step up and show the team I can hold me own. It takes a team to show up to win some games. I was a part of what everyone put together in the win.”
While not as sexy as game-winning field goals, Wilder’s punting has been just as important to the team's success this year. He is fourth in the nation in punting at 45.3 per punt, playing a huge role in the Lumberjacks' defensive success by changing field position when the offense stalls.
“Punting has been going well,” said Wilder. “I have really worked on it since I got here. I think I have a lot of potential at it. It is an advantage for us to the send the ball to other end of the field and put the other team in deep field position. It helps our team a lot to have the other team have to drive the whole field. I am glad I can help and contribute.”
PICK SIX FOR DOSEN
The NAU defense recorded an interception for the sixth consecutive game Saturday, and it played a big part in the victory over Northern Colorado. Trailing 3-2 in a low-scoring, defensive battle, junior Mike Dosen made a play in the secondary that is becoming a calling card for this NAU team.
“It comes down to preparation and reading the scouting report to anticipate what they are going to do,” Dosen said. “I got a good break on it, I guess.”
Dosen picked off the Northern Colorado quarterback, notching the 10th pick of the season for the defense. The 10 interceptions are tied for second most in the league this season though eight games. NAU recorded just six all last season.
Dosen raced into the end zone for the touchdown, giving the Lumberjacks the 9-3 lead they held until the fourth quarter. NAU registered a safety in the first quarter for the first points of the game.
“The only thing that was going through my head was I better not get caught by the quarterback,” said Dosen, who transferred to NAU from Oregon prior to the 2011 season. “It was a rush. It was cool. It was real special.”
NAU ranks first in the Big Sky in pass defense (193.6) and second overall in total defense (330.8). The Lumberjacks were seventh in the league last season against the pass at 251.4 yards per game. The Lumberjacks have a 110.3 pass defense efficiency rating, the second best in the league.
“We have a lot of talent in the secondary,” said Dosen. “We are really hungry to get the championship.”
STILL GOING STRONG
The Lumberjacks have won seven consecutive games for the first time since 1958, when they played in the NAIA national championship game. NAU is 7-1 after eight games for the first since 1996 and fifth time in school history (‘23, ‘56, ‘57, ‘96) while looking for an 8-1 start in nine games for just the second time (NAU went 8-1 in 1957 and started 9-0 in 1958). The Lumberjacks are the lone Big Sky team still undefeated in league play.
With losses by Cal Poly and Eastern Washington, NAU moved into sole possession of first place in the Big Sky standings at 5-0. The Lumberjacks control their destiny for a league title, with games against Idaho State, Southern Utah and Cal Poly remaining in the regular season. NAU was picked seventh by the coaches and ninth by the media in the preseason polls.