The 2019 schedule for Northern Arizona football was released Thursday night, and the Lumberjacks kick off the season in Flagstaff for the first time in nearly a decade.
The new season opens with a Thursday matchup with a Missouri Valley Conference squad, the Missouri State Bears, in the Walkup Skydome Aug. 29 during the first week of the fall semester.
The last time the Lumberjacks opened a season in the Skydome was a 48-0 shutout over Division II Western New Mexico in 2010. The last time Northern Arizona opened against a team in the same division at home was back in 1999 against Cal Poly in a 55-21 Lumberjacks win.
Northern Arizona lost to the Bears this past season, 40-8, on the road in what was the Lumberjacks’ first full game played after starting quarterback Case Cookus was knocked out of the Eastern Washington game with what was later announced as a broken right collarbone. Backup transfer quarterback Daniel Bridge-Gadd made his first career start in the game and Northern Arizona struggled all day with the Bears in the loss.
The Bears ended the season 4-7 overall, the same number of wins NAU totaled, and beat three FCS teams.
Following the home game in the Skydome, the Lumberjacks travel to Tucson to face the Arizona Wildcats and then will be right back in Flagstaff to play Western New Mexico. The schedule marks the first time the Lumberjacks have played a D-II team since 2016.
The Lumberjacks cap off the nonconference slate with Illinois State out of the Missouri Valley for a road contest in Normal, Illinois. The Redbirds finished 2018 with a 6-5 overall record and dropped their previous game to the Lumberjacks 37-16 in the Skydome in 2017.
The Big Sky Conference slate includes all five schools that finished ninth through 13th in the conference -- below Northern Arizona at eighth and all of which finished the season at 3-5 in conference or worse. But the Lumberjacks will face three of the Big Sky's top-four teams on the road in Montana State and co-Big Sky champions Weber State and Eastern Washington in road games. All three qualified for the FCS playoffs in 2018.
Weber and Eastern Washington each won more than 10 games this season and Northern Arizona was able to beat Weber at home, but lost to Eastern Washington 31-26 in the Skydome.
The Big Sky portion of the schedule starts with the Lumberjacks traveling to Bozeman, Montana, for a Saturday, Sept. 28, game the week after facing Illinois State. It is the only trip the Lumberjacks will make to Montana as the Montana Griz are not on the schedule.
After facing the Bobcats, Northern Arizona has Northern Colorado at home and then will have the bye week before taking on the 2018 FCS playoff's No. 2 seed, Weber State in Ogden, Utah, on Oct. 19.
The Lumberjacks alternate home and away games against Portland State (Homecoming), Eastern Washington, Sacramento State and Southern Utah the rest of the season. The regular season will conclude against Idaho, which just finished its first season back in the Big Sky after moving down from the FBS.
All game times and television designations are to be determined.