Northern Arizona’s win streak came to an end Saturday as the Lumberjacks (3-4, 2-2 Big Sky) fell 44-0 at Sacramento State (5-2, 4-0 Big Sky).
Sacramento State dominated the game on both offense and defense from the beginning. It out-gained the Lumberjacks 656 to 226 overall.
"They're a good football team and they executed their game plan well, and we just didn't execute ours well," Northern Arizona coach Chris Ball said.
The Hornets offense started cooking on the opening drive. They drove down the field using short passes and picking up yards after the catch. On the final play of the drive, Sacramento State quarterback Asher O’Hara took a sneak into the end zone, but fumbled right before reaching the goal line. It resulted in a fumble and a touchback that gave the ball to the Lumberjacks instead of giving up a score.
Northern Arizona could not capitalize on the turnover, punting the ball away. Then, Sacramento State drove again and kicked a field goal late in the quarter to go up 3-0. That lead held at the end of the period.
Then, the Hornets began to roll in the second quarter. They scored touchdowns on five consecutive drives, behind excellent passing from quarterback Jake Dunniway and good blocking on Sacramento State runs. Meanwhile Northern Arizona could not move the ball with any consistency, as the Hornets were disciplined and aggressive defensively.
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Dunniway was 18-21 for 314 yards and two touchdowns. The Hornets out-gained the Lumberjacks 517 to 37 in the first half, scoring 34 points in the quarter and leading 37-0 at the halftime break.
The third quarter was not so dominant for Sacramento State, as the Lumberjacks attempted to creep back into the game. Northern Arizona finally forced a punt for the first time on the Hornets’ opening drive.
"I was happy with the effort there," Ball said of the third quarter, "They were trying to put the game away and had their backups in, but I was pleased with them giving effort."
The Lumberjacks moved the ball in their best offensive drive to that point, getting into the red zone. But they turned the ball over on downs on Sacramento State’s 9-yard line. In response, Sacramento State continually ran the ball, seemingly happy to wind the clock and milk its lead.
While Northern Arizona could not score, its defense stepped up in the third period and did not allow the Hornets to score either.
But, early in the fourth, receiver Chris Miller caught a 43-yard touchdown pass to increase the lead to 44-0.
With just over nine minutes left, Northern Arizona put in its second-string offense. The group put together a few first downs, but also turned the ball over on downs to give the ball to the Hornets without scoring again.
From there, Sacramento State simply ran the ball and the clock to finish the game.
The loss moves Northern Arizona’s record to 3-4 and 2-2 in the Big Sky. It also dampens the Lumberjacks' conference title prospects, but does not dash them entirely.
"We've got to move on. I told the guys that we aren't canceling the season because we got our butts kicked, so let's get back to it tomorrow and try to get better," Ball said.
The Lumberjacks continue conference play with a road match-up at Idaho (2-5, 1-3 Big Sky) on Saturday.