Top offense vs top defense Showdown

Brandon May


The stage is set, the weather will be cold and wet when the fourth-ranked Weber State University football team welcomes the Northern Arizona University Lumberjacks to Stewart Stadium Oct. 19 at 2 p.m.

The Wildcats enter the matchup 4-2 overall, with all four wins over FCS opponents, and 2-0 in the Big Sky after the Oct.12 homecoming win over SUU.

The Lumberjacks are 3-3 overall and 1-1 in the Big Sky. NAU had last week off for their bye week after defeating Northern Colorado 41–23 two weeks ago.

The ’Cats and Lumberjacks will kickoff for the 53 time with NAU holding a 27-25 all time series lead. The ’Jacks have won the last four games over Weber State.

“We owe them,” junior offensive lineman Ty Whitworth said. “All the years that I’ve been here, we haven’t beaten them. It’s exciting to get another chance.”

Weber State traveled last year to Arizona falling 28–24, WSU’s only conference loss, which led to a share of the Big Sky Champion trophy with Eastern Washington.

“I’m excited about the matchup,” head coach Jay Hill said. “They’ve always been a great team and every time we play, it’s a hard-fought matchup. This is a good team coming in here.”

The Lumberjacks are led by their offense, who put up a lot of points and a lot of yards each game. Senior quarterback Case Cookus leads the offense and is third in the Big Sky in total yards passing this season, with 2,074.

Cookus relies heavily on his top three receivers Brandon Porter, Hendrix Johnson and Stacy Chukwumezie, who all have over 400 yards receiving and at least two touchdowns each.

“Cookus is a great player, and has been for a long time in this league,” Hill said. “We know the importance of getting pressure on him and make him confused with the coverages. He’s a great player with good weapons around him, going to be a good test for our defense.”

When the two teams met last fall, NAU had 352 yards of total offense including 258 yards through the air.

Sophomore cornerback Marque Collins and the Wildcat defense are expecting the pass heavy offense to return this year.

“We’re going to play how we normally play,” Collins said. “It’s going to be a team effort. Our line is going to put pressure, and the corners need to lock it down.”

For the first time in a month, the Wildcat offense will have both Jake Constantine and Kaden Jenks 100 percent healthy.

“We got our quarterbacks back and healthy,” Hill said. “We got to be able to run the ball and get the ball to our playmakers.”

In recent weeks, the ’Cats have used three different running backs all at different times throughout the game.

With a high powered offense on the opposing side, WSU needs to sustain drives and will look for their three running backs to do just that.

Junior Kevin Smith Jr., sophomore Josh Davis and freshman Kris Jackson look to help sustain drives and move the ball down the field between the tackles.

“We got to sustain drives,” Whitworth said. “If they’re going to be what they are, high-powered offense, we got to keep the ball and we can’t be three and out every time.”

NAU’s offense comes into Ogden leading the nation in passing offense and ranked sixth in total offense.

Weber State enters leading the Big Sky and ranked 11 in scoring defense. The ’Cats also rank second on total defense and passing defense.

“This matchup is very exciting,” Collins said on the NAU offense versus the WSU defense. “We always want that challenge, the best receivers and quarterbacks.”

The Wildcats and Lumberjacks will kickoff at 2 p.m. at Stewart Stadium. Weather is expected to be in the low 50s and upper 40s with a chance of a late shower.

“We’re used to it; we are a bad weather team,” Whitworth said. “We aren’t in a dome this year.”