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Arizona-NAU: Lumberjacks set for a statement game

NAU RB Zach Bauman looks for running room against Arizona State last season. Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

Related: Arizona-NAU notebook: UA ready for youth movement

Beware the little brothers.

The Arizona Wildcats open their season Saturday night against visiting Northern Arizona, from the Football Championship Subdivision, the lower tier of Division I.

The Lumberjacks, who were 6-5 last season, are used to playing up, having played a Football Bowl Subdivision team in each of the past 10 years.

They have lost them all.

That included five losses to Arizona in that span and a 41-20 defeat at Arizona State last season. The Lumberjacks were within a touchdown late in the third quarter, however, and held the Sun Devils to only 56 yards.

“They played Arizona State well a year ago,” Arizona coach Mike Stoops said. “They have played us well for a long period of time down here. We are certainly aware of what kind of team they have.”

Stoops also has reminded his team that, as always, the Cats will see a motivated NAU team, whose roster is full of in-state players eager to make a statement that they should have been recruited by top-level schools.

“They look forward to this game in a lot of ways,” Stoops said. “It’s a huge opportunity for them to showcase their program.”

Stoops notes the Lumberjacks skill players, such as 1,000-yard rusher Zach Bauman and receiver Austin Shanks, who caught 65 passes for 613 yards and three touchdowns last season. Both are preseason All-Big Sky selections.

NAU lost five of its top six tackles. Linebacker Scott McKeever made 52 stops last season, and defensive end Isaac Bond, a preseason all-conference pick, had 5.5 sacks.

Quotes from Stoops about throwing the ball all over the stadium has reached NAU coach Jerome Souers.

“Arizona has undergone some changes in their schematics,” he said.

“They’re throwing the ball a lot more. Coach Stoops has traditionally had an outfit that can run the ball and throw the ball, but they’re talking about throwing the ball like 50 to 60 times a game. …

“We’re not sure exactly what they are going to look like.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the 19th installment of our 24 Hours of Arizona Football Blogging — one post at the top of every hour. Keep checking back at TucsonCitizen.com through Friday at 11 a.m. or follow the entire series with the “24 hours of blogging” tag.

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