Last weekend North Dakota climbed into the national rankings for the first time this season following a big win over UNI. This week they were able to keep that momentum and prove their worthiness of the Top 25 by dispatching Northern Arizona 27-24 on Saturday afternoon.
Things got off to a tough start for NAU. After an 11-play drive that got well within UND territory, Lumberjacks kicker Collin Robbins missed his 42-yard field goal try, a miss that proved to be very costly down the line.
Northern Arizona’s defense forced a punt, though, and with their second chance the offense was able to put points on the board. Quarterback RJ Martinez found Coleman Owens for a 30-yard touchdown strike. NAU led 7-0.
The Hawks responded with a field goal on the following possession. UND quarterback Tommy Schuster orchestrated a 14-play drive that was capped with Brady Stevens 38-yard field goal. Stevens would eventually cut the Lumberjacks lead to just one later in the quarter with another field goal.
It was a mistake by the NAU offense that gave North Dakota its first lead of the day. Martinez has an errant pass intercepted by C.J. Stiegel. Stiegel wove his way through NAU’s offensive unit and returned the pick 27 yards for a touchdown to put the Hawks on top 13-7.
The Lumberjacks didn’t back down despite another untimely missed field goal in the second quarter. Martinez connected with Owens again just before halftime for the pair’s second touchdown. At the break, NAU held a slim 14-13 advantage.
Both defenses came out of the break amped up. Punt after punt kept the difference just one point for the entirety of the third frame. Finally, though, Northern Arizona broke the drought and tacked on a field goal. Robbins hit on the 42-yard try this time to extend the lead to four as the fourth quarter began.
Schuster and the Hawks were able to regain the lead late when Bo Belquist hauled in an eight-yard score. Now up 20-17, it was up to UND’s defense to preserve the lead.
Instead, though, Martinez led another scoring drive; an 11-play march that ended with a spectacular touchdown catch by Owens. The duo had linked up for three scores on the afternoon and, with less than two minutes to play, it seemed as though NAU would nab their second win of the season.
UND had other plans though. Schuster just needed 49 seconds to snatch the lead back. A pretty hook-and-ladder play got the Hawks onto the Northern Arizona side of the field before a beautifully-executed flea flicker sealed the deal. Schuster hit Jack Wright in the end zone for a 23-yard dart.
The Lumberjacks were unable to do anything with their limited time remaining and UND held on for the narrow 27-24 win.
The Hawks played clean ball and didn’t turn the ball over at all. Schuster completed 21 of his 32 passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Tyler Hoosman eclipsed the 100-yard mark on 12 carries.
Northern Arizona, meanwhile, was haunted by missed opportunities. The two missed field goals proved to be the difference, as did Martinez’s pick six. NAU’s defense did look stout, holding UND to just 3-of-11 on third down. Still, it wasn’t enough and now the Lumberjacks fall to 1-2.
North Dakota will face Southern Illinois next weekend while Northern Arizona will begin Big Sky play against Idaho.