northern-arizonaConference play is on the horizon as the 3-0 Griz hit the road again. Our first conference game is against another ranked team, the #24 NAU Lumberjacks. Most all of Griz Nation remembers last year’s game where the Griz held a 24-7 lead before NAU rattled off 34 unanswered points and beat the Griz 41-31. The Grizzly run defense which was stout most all of the year gave up 253 rushing yards and 3 TDs to Zach Bauman, the best running back in the Big Sky.

Let’s do this;

NAU’s record is 2-1

0-35 loss to Arizona: NAU’s defense was solid for a while but the Arizona ground game was just too much. Arizona had less than 400 total yards but 300 of that came from rushing the ball on a whopping 9 yards per carry average. NAU’s QB tossed 3 interceptions and had just 270 total yards of offense.

21-10 win vs UC Davis: It was a tight game right up to the end. Tied 7-7 at the half Davis went up in the 3rd 10-7. Then with 9:00 to go in the game NAU took a pick-6 to the house to go up 14-10. UCD re-grouped but the same thing happened with a minute to go, another pick-6 for NAU to end the game at 21-10. NAU’s run game was shut down, just 66 rushing yards and only 125 passing yards to go with it. UCD wasn’t much better though. NAU had 191 total yards, UCD 245. Both teams were a combined 6-31 on 3rd down and 0-3 on 4th down… gross.

22-16 win vs South Dakota: NAU fought back a big comeback attempt from USD, holding a 19-0 lead at the start of the 4th quarter it was looking good for NAU. USD got the score to 22-16 with just under 3 minutes to go in the game but didn’t get the onsides kick, two Zach Bauman rushing first downs later and the game is over. Bauman got his stride back with 151 on the ground and NAU controlled the clock. NAU had their 3rd pick-6 TD in this game.

Players to Watch

#34 Zach Bauman, RB – I’m so glad this guy is a senior. The 5-10, 200 pound senior is one of the more dominant running backs in all of the FCS. He’s run all over most all teams and is the life blood of The Lumberjacks. Bauman this year 280 rushing yards and 1 TD, he’s also the team’s leading receiver with 12 catches for 68 yards. Bauman’s ypc is at 4.6 yards so far this year, which is 0.7 ypc less than last year’s average.

#7 Kyren Poe, QB – The new starter at QB, Poe has had a bit of a rough ramp up to the job. He’s averaging just about 151 yards per game passing and has 2 passing TDs to 4 INTs (however 3 of those 4 came against Arizona). It looks like he’s a bit of a scrambler, he’s got 57 gained yards rushing (with 44 lost on sacks).

#5 Dejzon Walker, WR – The only WR with TDs this year (2), he was the leading receiver on last year’s team. Just 66 yards so far this year for the 6-3, 225 pound wide receiver.

#6 Nick Cole, WR – 5th in receiving last year, Cole is 2nd on the team in receiving yards so far this year (91). He’s another tall WR, 6-3, just like Walker.

#18 Jesse Brantley, WR – the team leader in receiving yards, by 1 yard, with 92 yards on 8 catches this year so far. Brantley also handles kick return duty.

#35 Austin Hasquet, LB – Cousin to former Griz basketball player Jordan Hasquet, Austin leads the team with 18 tackles so far this season. He’s got 1 sack and 2 TFLs. He was 3rd best on the team last year with 61 tackles.

#20 Luck Dozier, DB – Dozier has one of NAU’s two pick-6’s this year. He’s 3rd on the team with 15 tackles, last year he was 4th overall on the team with 57. He lead the team last year with 4 picks and 9 pass deflections. A real ball-hawk.

#19 Anders Battle, CB – Battle doesn’t have the eye-popping stats yet like he did last year with a team leading 64 tackles (as a corner!) This year so far he’s got just 7, however he’s also got a pick-6 TD and had 5 pass deflections already. He’ll probably be on Ellis Henderson for most of the game.

#50 Stephen Garcia, DL – New(ish) to starting on the D-line, Garcia is 2nd best on the team in tackles so far this season with 16, he’s also got 2 QB hits this season.

Returning Starters

– 3 of 5 starting O-linemen (although I think one might be hurt right now)
– 3 of 4 starting WRs/TEs
– 1 RB

– 2 of 4 starting D-line
– 2 of 2 linebackers
– 2 of 5 DBs/CBs
General Stats

– NAU is averaging 14.3 points per game, the UM defense is allowing 12.3 points per game.

– NAU’s defense is allowing 20.3 points per game, the UM offense is averaging 44 points per game.

– NAU’s offense averages 116 rushing / 151 passing, UM’s defense averages allowing 105 rushing / 181 passing.

– NAU’s defense allows 160 rushing / 147 passing, UM’s offense averages 247 rushing / 251 passing.
– NAU in the red zone is scoring just 57% of the time with 75% of those scores winding up at TDs. The UM defense allows red zone scores 83% of the time with 60% of those scores winding up as TDs.

– NAU’s defense in the redzone is allowing scores 83% of the time with 60% of those scores being TDs. Meanwhile UM’s offense is scoring 82% of the time in the redzone with 79% of those scores being TDs.

– NAU is -1 this year in turnovers.

– NAU loves to control the clock, nearly 34:00 min in average TOP

– NAU converts 3rd downs just 21% of the time, their defense allows conversions 33% of the time. The UM is converting 3rd downs 57% of the time and allowing opposing teams to convert 3rd downs 40% of the time.

– NAU has given up 9 sacks already this season (UM has given up just 1).

– It looks like NAU has kicking issues just like us, they’re on a 2nd starter at kicker as well.


Keys to a Grizzly Victory

– Obviously the big thing is to stop Bauman. “Stopping” him might not be possible, although UCD did it. I see “managing” him as a better goal. He can run, he will catch passes on screens and check downs, you’ve got to watch him the whole time. This is going to be a monumental challenge for our front 7 who were embarrassed by him last year, I’m sure they’re itching for revenge.

– Force 3rd downs, especially longer than 4 yards. It would appear that NAU and their new QB have big issues with 3rd down. If it’s 3rd and short it’ll probably go to Bauman, however if the Griz can force Poe to pick up those 3rd downs then their ability to convert drops way down.

– Pressure Poe, big time. NAU is allowing 3 sacks per game with a dinged up and currently patch-work O-line. Wags and Holmes have to be on his back all day long. Get him rattled.

– Win the field position game. NAU’s defense is stout. I’ve seen posts from fans of different teams saying NAU might have the best defense in the Big Sky. They’ve bounced back well after the Arizona thrashing and have stifled UCD and USD (although two kind of poor teams). Sometimes getting a few first downs and pinning them deep will be a win, setting up a change to get the ball back shortly at mid-field. We’ll need big punts from Shaw and good coverage downfield.

– Mix it up. NAU has a very athletic and confident secondary. They’ll mostly be in 1-on-1 coverage on the split-out WRs I’d guess, some play-action and misdirection might get them to over commit to hopping a quick route or supporting a supposed run play. Staying balanced will keep this defense on it’s toes. I don’t see a real weakness in their D, the Griz are going to have to test NAU and see what they can win with.

– Win the turnover margin. NAU in their 1 loss turned the ball over 3 times (all interceptions).

– Play past the emotion. The Griz are going to be coming into this game fired up, but I can guarantee that the Skydome will be more packed than usual and NAU will be just as fired up. Much like UND I expect that NAU will come out firing, the Griz will need to brace for that and maintain their game plan for the long-haul. This game will probably be won by the team that adjusts better at halftime and doesn’t drop off after the rush of the start of the game wears out.

– DOLA. Big time baby, let our big dudes up front plow the way for Canada, Van, and Counts.

– Expect the Worst. He he. In a game that might be a defensive struggle our new kicker Ben Worst might be the difference maker. I hope he’s ready for the spotlight. A game-winner might be resting on his shoulders.

– Avoid dumb penalties. It looks like NAU is good at forcing their opponents to commit more penalties than them. The Griz this year so far are averaging almost 20 yards per game more in penalty yards than NAU is. Don’t give them free yards on personal fouls and try like hell to not kill a drive with an ill-timed holding penalty.

– The JJ factor. Jordan’s got quite the job this week. He did not look sharp in the OPSU game, however it didn’t matter much. Not the way to head into this big game, it was a bad weekend for Jordy beyond that. He’s got some rebuilding to do this week and into this game. What we’ve not seen from JJ is much pistol/read option. Could this game showcase some of that? So far the UM has fooled both App and UND with very different looks. With a versatile QB like JJ does Kfense and Scott have another trick up their sleeves?

Overall I see a slight advantage for the Griz due to a more experienced offense especially at QB and O-line. However NAU’s got the great neutralizer in Bauman who (as we saw last year) can turn the tides of any game. If the Griz can keep him under wraps they’ll be well on their way to getting to 4-0. If not… it’s anyone’s game. Save a 2003 blowout win there I don’t really recall a big Griz win there, the games are usually pretty tight there, even if there is a big mismatch in terms of talent.

The Griz need to come out the gate ready for war, there’s a lot on the line in the game – the winning team sets the tone for those gunning for the upper tier of the Big Sky.