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Big Sky notes: Eastern will face trio of running backs

NAU offense ‘work in progress’

Northern Arizona’s running game is still a “work in progress,” coach Jerome Souers said Wednesday as the Lumberjacks prepared for Saturday’s home game against second-ranked Eastern Washington. That may have more to do with injuries on the line than the trio of backs who’ve replaced graduated Big Sky Conference all-star Zach Bauman. Presason all-conference linemen Roy Garcia and Jacob Julian have been hobbled by injury, while all-star tight end R.J. Rickert was lost before the season began. With the loss of Bauman (1,456 yards and nine touchdowns last year), Souers has given the bulk of the carries to Casy Jahn, a 185-pound junior who also leads NAU in receptions (24 for 231 yards and two touchdowns). “He’s been very productive, more of a control back, and good out of the backfield,” Souers said of Jahn, who has 122 carries for 556 yards and four touchdowns. True freshman Marquice Paige (42 rushes, 28 yards and two TDs) and redshirt frosh Corbin Jountti (41 rushes, 260 yards, 3 TDs) have “shown progress,” Souers said. And they’ve been steady; no NAU back has broken a run longer than 37 yards, but the Lumberjacks (4-3 overall, 2-1 in the Big Sky) have lost just two fumbles all year, the seventh-best mark in the Football Championship Subdivision. Meanwhile, the NAU passing game has thrived. New quarterback Chase Cartwright is 48 for 83 for 613 yards and seven TDs, while throwing just one pick. Last week, Cartwright engineered an 11-play, 83-yard drive in the fourth quarter, capping the series with a 3-yard TD run that proved to be the game-winner in a 21-17 NAU win over Portland State. Bengals have bite Seven games into the season, Idaho State football is making history. After a 56-28 home win Saturday over Southern Utah, the Bengals are 4-3 overall and 2-1 in the Big Sky – nothing earth-shattering until you consider that from 2008-13, ISU was 4-44 in conference games. The Bengals have now won multiple conference games in a season for the first time since 2007, and four wins is the most for the program since it won five in 2005. Idaho State is 4-0 at Holt Arena this season. The Bengals’ three losses this season have come to FBS teams Utah and Utah State, and a two-point loss to No. 2 EWU. Idaho State leads the Big Sky and ranks second in the nation in total offense with an average of 569.7 yards per game, and leads the nation in passing average per game at 367.3 yards per game. Head coach Mike Kramer, who is in his fourth season of the program, was rewarded with a three-year contract extension last week. Notes Portland State redshirt freshman running back Steven Long rushed 16 times for 253 yards for an average of 15.8 yards per carry and one touchdown in the Vikings’ 21-17 loss to Northern Arizona. The 5-foot-7, 180-pounder entered the game with 118 rushing yards. … Southern Utah junior quarterback Ammon Olsen set a number of school records in Saturday’s loss to Idaho State. Olsen completed 38 of 65 passes for 528 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Olsen set single-game school records for passing yards, passing attempts, total plays and total yards of offense. Olsen amassed 530 yards of total offense. The 528 passing yards are the second-most in the FCS this season. Fordham’s Michael Nebrich threw for 566.
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