No. 18/20 NAU falls at home to No. 6/5 Eastern Washington, 31-26
FLAGSTAFF – The No. 18/20 Northern Arizona University football team allowed 14 points in a span of just 1:40 in the first quarter and lost starting quarterback Case Cookus to injury as it came up short in a 31-26 loss to No. 6/5 Eastern Washington in the home opener at the J. Lawrence Walkup Skydome on Saturday.
Cookus was injured following a hit with just 12:31 into the contest and was replaced by sophomore Daniel Bridge-Gadd for the remainder of the game, which saw both teams combine for 981 yards of total offense.
“Well we had a relatively rocky start to the day and didn’t help ourselves out much in that regard,” NAU head coach Jerome Souers said. “First off, I am really proud of our guys. They stayed with a fight and battled until the very end. We have to give credit to our opponent, Eastern Washington played well. Gage Gubrud is a fine quarterback, made a lot of plays for his team today and that run right at the very end of the game was a back-breaker force.
We tried to position ourselves with some field position and give our defense a chance to make a stop at the end, but they made a great play. At the end of the day, they made more plays than we did.”
Bridge-Gadd had a solid game in relief as he rallied the Lumberjacks to within five points at 31-26 with 1:51 left in regulation following a 13-play, 79-yard drive that culminated in a three-yard scoring toss to junior running back Joe Logan. NAU missed the attempt at the two-point conversion and failed to regain possession as Eastern Washington was able to run out the clock to seal the victory.
Logan finished with 63 yards on 16 carries to lead the NAU rushing attack and sophomore Nate Stinson added 54 yards on seven attempts, in addition to three receptions for 75 yards, which included a 34-yard touchdown catch.
Bridge-Gadd completed 17-of-29 passes for 231 yards and three touchdowns. Cookus was 5-of-8 through the air for 54 yards along with one interception before being forced to leave due to the injury.
Senior wide receiver Emmanuel Butler led the ’Jacks with 76 receiving yards on four catches. Defensively, NAU was led by junior linebacker Taylor Powell, who recorded a game-high nine tackles and a sack. Eastern Washington posted five sacks in the victory.
Eastern Washington (2-0) quarterback Gubrud finished the game with 322 yards and four touchdowns while completing 18-of-33 passes. His top target was senior Nsimba Webster, who hauled in seven catches for 176 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a 62-yard reception that gave the Eagles a 14-0 advantage at the 10:15 mark of the first quarter.
The Eagles first touchdown of the game was setup by a 46-yard pass from Gubard to Andrew Boston down to the NAU five-yard line. Gubrud connected two plays later with Jayce Gilder from four yards out to make the score 7-0 just 3:05 into the contest.