With the senior star wide receiver on the sidelines for Homecoming, opportunity knocked for a true freshman.
Chancellor Brewington had eight catches for a career-high 119 yards and recorded the first touchdown of his collegiate career as the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks, playing without star receiver Elijah Marks, topped one of the Big Sky's best defenses on Saturday, 37-17, in the Walkup Skydome.
Brewington's 18-yard score capped an eight-play, 64-yard drive to make it a 10-0 advantage in favor of the Lumberjacks, who never trailed against the Sacramento State Hornets despite struggling at times with penalties and turnovers.
"Elijah brings a lot of energy, he makes a lot of big plays, so I just tried not to overthink it, play the game of football. I had to make plays when the ball was thrown to me," Brewington said.
It was the first time for the freshman to be on the receiving side of the score for Northern Arizona, which won its sixth consecutive game, improved to 6-2 overall and boosted its Big Sky Conference record to 5-0. Earlier in the season in a win against Illinois State, Lumberjacks Case Cookus tallied a touchdown pass on a trick play from Brewington.
"I felt terrible when I realized he didn't have a touchdown yet. I was like, 'That sucks,' so the past few games I thought, 'I got to get Chance a touchdown, that ain't fair, I can't have a receiving touchdown with him back there," said Cookus, who ended his night against a stout opposing secondary on 35-of-57 passing, 407 yards and the score to his young playmaker.
Coming into the Skydome having at least three sacks in five of seven games, Sacramento State saw a two-game win streak end, while its overall record evened up at 4-4 and its conference record dropped to 3-2. The Hornets managed to get to Cookus for four sacks, even with one of its pass-rush leaders playing limited minutes.
Cookus, impressed with his offensive line's work throughout the night, took the heat for the times he did go down.
"Most of the sacks today were partly my fault, hanging on to the ball too long, I got to get it out of my hands a little quicker," the sophomore quarterback said.
Meanwhile, the Lumberjacks' young defense up front shined, with Hamilton To'o and Carson Taylor notching solo sacks, and Quentin Robinson and Chauntez Thomas combining for one.
In fact, the defense as a whole came up with big plays to help keep the momentum on Northern Arizona's side. For the first time this season, the Lumberjacks returned two interceptions for touchdowns in one game.
The lead opened up to 17-0 in the second quarter when Wes Sutton intercepted one of Sacramento's backup quarterbacks, Wyatt Clapper, at the Northern Arizona 45-yard line and took it to the paint. Registering the game's final score, Kam'ron Johnson picked off Roman Ale in the fourth quarter, giving his team its fourth pick-six of the season from 46-yards out.
As Northern Arizona settled for field goals midway through the game, Sacramento State started to rally but never could catch up, cutting the deficit to 20-17 thanks to a big 71-yard run from Joseph Ajeigbe in the second quarter, a 27-yard field goal and a 48-yard touchdown pass from Ale to Elijah Dotson.
During the Hornets' comeback attempt that was assisted by one of the Lumberjacks' two fumbles, Griffin Roehler put one of his three field goals through the uprights to put his team ahead 20-10.
The only kick Roehler didn't make didn't matter. Early in the fourth quarter, the kicker missed his target, but a Sacramento State personal foul gave Northern Arizona a fresh set of downs, and they took advantage. On the ensuing play, Joe Logan ran in a 13-yard touchdown to give his team the 30-17 lead.
Logan ended his night with 67 ground yards, with Cory Young adding 62 yards on 15 carries.
After Brewington's 118 yards, the receiving offense was well-distributed for the Jacks, who had Hunter Burton go for 72 yards, Terell Brown add 64 and Matthew Kempton contribute 45 yards against a secondary that came into Saturday trailing only Northern Arizona in the interception category.
"The thing we are probably most concerned about today is the self-inflicted mistakes we had," Lumberjacks head coach Jerome Souers said. "We had an inordinate amount in the first half in particular. We haven't had ball security issues like we had today, fumbling the ball, we haven't had penalties like we had today -- coming on both sides of the ball. But what I loved was our passion for the game; we played hard, our guys battled and never stopped."
The bad field goal turned touchdown wasn't the only interesting kicking situation of the game. Cookus, a player of many talents, pinned Sacramento at its own 2-yard line with a first-half pooch punt.
"Those are game-changers, we can attack and go for it on fourth down if that's what there, but if they play crowded like they did to pooch it down there, that makes it a lot easier on our defense to make them go 99 yards," Souers said.
The Lumberjacks, who have outscored their last five opponents 209-104, are back in action next week when they take on the Montana Grizzlies in Missoula.
AROUND THE BIG SKY
SOUTHERN UTAH 27, NORTHERN COLORADO 14
GREELEY, Colo. (AP) — Patrick Tyler threw for two touchdowns, ran for another and Southern Utah took advantage of two first-quarter fumbles on its way to a victory over Northern Colorado.
Tyler was 21-of-31 passing for 294 yards with an interception for the Thunderbirds (6-2, 4-1 Big Sky), who won their fourth straight. He ran 31 yards for the game's first score and Jay Green rushed 2 yards for a 13-0 lead, both drives beginning after Bears fumbles.
Tyler threw 9 yards to Logan Parker for a 20-7 halftime lead and 13 yards to Cameron Chambers for the Thunderbirds' final score. James Felila ran for 126 yards.
Conor Regan, who made his first start for Northern Colorado last week, was 28 of 54 for 392 yards passing — seventh all-time at Northern Colorado — and a 15-yard score to Theron Verna. Brandon Cartagena ran 15 yards for the other touchdown for the Bears (2-5, 1-4), who have lost four straight. Alex Wesley caught 10 passes for 193 yards — third-most at UNC — including a 65-yarder.
WEBER STATE 41, MONTANA 27
OGDEN, Utah — Stefan Cantwell threw for two touchdowns and caught a touchdown pass in the first quarter, and the Weber State defense forced five turnovers in a victory over Montana.
Cantell hit Tui Satuala for 3-yards and Drew Batchelor for 6 and then caught an 8-yard pass from tight end Andrew Vollert off a double reverse. The Wildcats (6-2, 4-1 Big Sky Conference) made it 31-0 in the second quarter on a 1-yard run by Treshawn Garrett.
Montana (5-3, 3-2), which had a three-game winning streak snapped, closed within 34-20 on a pair of touchdown passes by Gresch Jensen but Jordan Preator returned his second interception 23 yards for a TD. Jensen, who was 21 of 42 for 347 yards and three interceptions, connected with Louie-McGee for a 38-yard touchdown before getting hurt. Jensen also ran for a touchdown in the first half.
The Grizzlies had 503 yards of total offense against the league's top defense but the Wildcats, who had 298 yards, turned the five turnovers into 21 points. Montana, which had put up points in 31 of 32 trips into the red zone, was just 2 of 5 while Weber State was 5 of 5.