Courtesy: Montana State Sports Information
Montana State completed a final drive that put the Bobcats into a position to win the game, but MSU was unable to convert on a two-point conversion attempt and No. 24 Northern Arizona was able to hold on for a 37-36 Big Sky Conference football victory on Saturday, Nov. 11, at the J. Lawrence Walkup Skydome.
The Bobcats tied the game at 30 to start the fourth quarter behind a five-play, 80-yard drive, that was capped by a 36-yard touchdown pass from Chris Murray to Jabarri Johnson. Northern Arizona drove down the field on its ensuing drive, but Brayden Konkol picked off Lumberjacks quarterback Case Cookus in the NAU red zone to keep the score tied.
MSU was unable to move the sticks and went three-and-out and the NAU offense responded with a 71-yard drive to put the Lumberjacks ahead, 37-30, with 4:49 remaining in the game.
Montana State began its drive on its 25 and opened with a Murray 14-yard carry. NAU was called for pass interference on the following play which pushed the ball into Lumberjack territory. Six consecutive rushes between the combination of Murray and LaSane moved the ball to the NAU 31 with 50 seconds remaining.
Facing fourth-and-10, Murray connected on a pass with Johnson short of the sticks, but the junior wide receiver battled past the first down line to keep the drive alive. Murray's first down pass fell incomplete, but on second down, Murray hit Kevin Kassis streaking down the seam for 21 yards and a Bobcat touchdown with 32 seconds left on the clock.
Trailing 37-36, the Bobcats chose to go for the two-point conversion and the win. Murray rolled out to his right to pass, but pressure from the NAU defense forced the play to get out of rhythm, and the MSU sophomore quarterback's toss fell incomplete in the end zone.
MSU's resulting onside kick wound up not reaching the 10-yard marker and the Bobcats were called for illegal touching. The Lumberjacks kneeled on first down to seal the win. NAU improved to 7-3 overall and 6-1 in Big Sky play. The Bobcats dropped to 4-6 overall and 4-3 against Big Sky opponents.
Montana State's rushing attack carried the Bobcats for a majority of the game. LaSane rushed for a team-high 184 yards on 19 carries, including a 74-yard gain to open the second half which led to his one rushing touchdown. Murray ran for 85 yards on 16 rushes, while he also went 12-for-19 passing for 155 yards. He accounted for four Bobcat touchdowns.
NAU outgained the Bobcats 549-455 in total yards. Quarterback Case Cookus threw for 314 yards and running back Joe Logan accounted for 142 yards on the ground and two touchdowns. Elijah Marks led the NAU receivers by hauling in nine catches for 123 yards receiving.
Senior Mac Bignell led the Bobcat defense with 14 tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss. Tucker Yates had 10 tackles and Josh Hill followed with nine.
The Bobcats scored two points on the defensive side of the ball before the end of the first half. Following an NAU touchdown and with 28 seconds remaining in the second quarter, the Lumberjacks' extra-point attempt was blocked by Tucker Yates. Bryson McCabe scooped up the loose ball and ran it back 98 yards to the end zone which tied the score at 16 heading into halftime.
Montana State heads into its final game of the 2017 season on Saturday, Nov. 18. The Bobcats will host Montana in the 117th edition of the Cat-Griz game at Bobcat Stadium with kickoff set for 12 p.m. The game is set to be televised on ROOT Sports and can be heard on the Bobcat Radio Network.