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Opportunity is knocking for NAU Lumberjacks
Well, here we are again: the proverbial fork in the road. No matter what you call it, the bottom line is this — it’s now or never for the NAU football team.
Entering their October 1 match-up with the defending Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) national champion Eastern Washington Eagles (EWU), the Lumberjacks hold an overall record at 2-2, splitting two contests in Big Sky Conference (BSC). They were ran over by an underrated Portland State (PSU) squad but then held the nation’s top passing offense to under 200 yards total.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the Jekyll and Hyde show continues with this team, as in years past when fast starts quickly fizzled into collapses even the Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox would be proud of. But, there may be a way to remedy this on again, off again display from the Lumberjacks. And it all starts when the Eagles come flying in.
Saturday’s home match-up represents the first of four consecutive contests that will test not only the on-field talent for NAU, but also the mental make-up and psyche of the squad. After EWU, they will hit the road to take on Montana State (MSU), a top five FCS team, before coming back to the Skydome to try and defeat perennial power Montana (UM) for the first time since head coach Jerome Souers took over. The final test will be on the road against a dangerous Sacramento State (SSU) team, who have already beaten Pac-12 member Oregon State.
This portion of their schedule is an opportunity for the Jacks to finally earn what they have watched slip away the past few years — a playoff berth. But they must be careful. EWU, despite being winless entering this weekend, still holds the FCS title. MSU will be looking to snap a two game losing streak to NAU. UM seeks to continue their dominance over the Jacks while SSU, after blowing out NAU last season on Homecoming, looks to capitalize on the over-anxiety of a Lumberjack team seeking revenge.
If they can emerge from this stretch with at least two wins and playing all the games tough, then there should be reason to believe in this year’s version. Three wins and NAU will be serious contenders. Sweep this portion of the schedule and they stand a good chance of chopping down the conference.
As someone who has watched this team from high above the past few seasons, and has witnessed first-hand those embarrassing closes to seasons after promising starts, I am always skeptical — it comes with the territory of my job. As a team, you should want to silence the doubters that criticize and nitpick this team game in and game out.
Well, now is your chance. Prove us wrong, Jacks.
By Brett Murdock, Northern Arizona News