Northern Arizona 2015 FCS Football Playoff Capsule

Northern Arizona Lumberjacks
Big Sky


Northern Arizona certainly had their ups and downs this season. After a couple wins to begin the year, the Lumberjacks fell at Arizona and at Montana. Those are certainly respectable losses. Then they beat Montana State before suffering their worst loss of the year at UC Davis. But after that loss, NAU came into their own and has played some great football…at least on the offensive side of the ball.

2015 Record: 7-4, 5-3
Coach: Jerome Souers

Big Wins: 10/3 Montana State (49-41), 11/7 at Eastern Washington (53-30)
Bad Losses: 9/26 at Montana (14-23), 10/10 at UC Davis (24-38)

During the 49-41 win against Montana State, freshman quarterback Case Cookus started to get comfortable under center and threw for four touchdowns. A couple weeks later he threw for 353 yards and four touchdowns against Weber State and on Halloween, Cookus threw for 363 yards and seven touchdowns. But that wasn’t the end of it either. Against Sacramento State, he threw for 407 yards and six touchdowns. On the year, he has thrown for 33 touchdowns and just three interceptions. Receiver Emmanuel Butler has been the main beneficiary of Cookus’ development. He has 56 receptions for 1,095 yards and 15 touchdowns. While the opposition concentrates on Butler, fellow receivers Dejzon Walker, Elijah Marks and Alex Holmes, along with tight end R.J. Rickert have all become dangerous secondary options. The impressive play of Cookus has also made life easier for 1,000 yard back Casey Jahn. Early in the year, Jahn was asked to do a lot for this team. He still gets plenty of carries now, but he has been much more productive while the opposing defenses attempt to contain Cookus.

The defense ranks towards the bottom of the Big Sky in just about every major statistical category. They will give up a lot of points and it seems like any time a team gets into the red zone, they are going to come away with a touchdown. But one thing this unit does do well is get to the quarterback. Linebacker Jake Thomas and lineman Zach McDonnell lead the way in that department. But there is talent elsewhere too. Eddie Horn and Marcus Alford are big time playmakers in the secondary and freshman safety Leandre Vaughn has made big strides. The key for this team will be bending, but not breaking, which has not been a strong point for Northern Arizona this season. Red zone stops, whether it be holding the opposition to a field goal attempt or creating turnovers, will likely be the difference for the Lumberjacks in the playoffs.

Statistical Leaders:
Rushing: Casey Jahn, RB, 1,019 yards
Passing: Chase Cookus, QB, 2,671 yards
Receiving: Emmanuel Butler, WR, 1,095 yards
Tackles: Eddie Horn, S, 72
Sacks: Jake Thomas, LB, 4.5
Interceptions: Eddie Horn, S, 4

2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 159.3 (57th in nation, 7th in conference)
Passing Offense: 297.9 (12, 3)
Total Offense: 457.2 (18, 4)
Scoring Offense: 39.1 (7, 2)
Rushing Defense: 180.3 (75, 6)
Pass Defense: 280.8 (119, 11)
Total Defense: 461.1 (112, 10)
Scoring Defense: 33.4 (93, 8)
Turnover Margin: 0.20 (50, 3)
Sacks: 2.60 (24, 3)
Sacks Allowed: 2.90 (104, 13)

Recent Playoff Appearances:
2013    First Round    Lost to South Dakota State
2003    First Round    Defeated McNeese State
2003    Quarterfinals    Lost to Florida Atlantic
2001    First Round    Lost to Sam Houston State
1999    First Round    Lost to Georgia Southern
1996    First Round    Lost to Furman

*all team stats through 11/14


Playoff Central