Only up 14-10 at the half, the UA knew it could be in for a close game.
Fast forward to the second half, and the offense and defenses both improved as Arizona won its season opener 41-10 over NAU at Arizona Stadium.
"The second quarter was disappointing in our ability to get off the field," Arizona head coach Mike Stoops said. "i thought we played much better in the second half. We played a lot of young players and it's good to see them step up in the end."
Northern Arizona started with the ball on its own 20-yard line and after a four-yard run by Zach Bauman, C.J. Parish came up with a sack of Cary Grossart for an eight-yard loss. Derek Earls then broke up a pass on third down and the Lumberjacks were forced to punt.
Arizona took over on its own 46-yard line and starts with a 42-yard pass from Nick Foles to Juron Criner. Keola Antolin then had a two-yard run and Criner caught a ten-yard touchdown pass to put Arizona on the board, with the Jamie Salazar extra point making it 7-0. Arizona's drive was three plays for 54 yards and only lasted 47 seconds, as it started off the game with a bang.
NAU then got the ball back and started with a four-yard run by Bauman and a six-yard reception by Ify Umodo for the first down. Bauman then followed with a three-yard run, but a delay of game penalty brought it back and the next two plays combined for ten yards, forcing NAU to punt and give UA possession on its own 10.
On the first play, Foles found David Roberts for a nine-yard gain and Antolin followed with a 14 and four-yard run. Criner then caught a 22-yard pass, Richard Morrison grabbed one for eight yards, and Antolin followed with an eight-yard reception. A dropped pass, false start, and a loss of four yards on an Antolin reception caused Arizona to go for the 44-yard field goal. Unfortunately for UA, there was a bad snap and Arizona wound up losing 26 yards instead.
The Lumberjacks could not do anything with it, as Giovannie Dixon lost a yard on his first carry, NAU had a false start, and Dixon gained four, and NAU lost it again on another false start. NAu then lost 13 yards on a pass in which Grossart caught it himself and the Lumberjacks were forced to punt.
After an incomplete pass, Antolin gained 26 in the air and then three more on a swing pass from Foles. After a false start, Gino Crump caught a pass for three yards and Dan Buckner followed with a 12-yard reception to the 13.
Richard Morrison then caught and eight-yard pass and Taimi Tutogi ran it in from five yards out, as the extra point made it 14-0 to end the first quarter.
NAU then started on its own 25 with a five-yard pass to Jake Hess, followed by two runs for a combined six yards by Bauman. Daniel Adler then caught a 14-yard pass and two plays later, bauman ran for five yards and Umodo got 18 in the air.
Bauman then lost four yards on the ground and Umodo got it back with a reception for eight yards. Paul Vassallo was then called for pass interference and Umodo followed with a five-yard reception to bring NAU to Arizona's 13. Bauman followed with a three-yard run, as Arizona forced NAU into a 28-yard field goal to make it 14-3 in favor of Arizona with a little over seven minutes in the first half.
Arizona then started on its own 23 with a six-yard run by Antolin. Two plays later, Crump caught a ten-yard pass and two plays after that, David Roberts caught one for eight. A seven-yard reception then could not save the drive by Arizona, as the Wildcats were forced to punt for the first time in the game with a little over four minutes left.
NAU started on its own nine-yard line with a four-yard run by Bauman and then a 10-yard reception by Khalil Paden. Bauman then gained one yard on the ground and NAU followed with a false start. Bauman got it back with 13 yards on a shovel pass and Umodo followed with 36 yards in the air. On the next play, Paden gained eight yards and NAU looked to have some momentum on Arizona's 23-yard line.
Paden then caught an eight-yard pass and Umodo followed with 10 more in the air before Paden scored from 12 yards out and the extra point made it 14-10 with about 30 seconds left in the half.
Arizona tried to score before the half, as Foles found Criner for 44 yards to the NAU 36 and Roberts followed with a seven-yard gain of his own with five seconds left on the clock. Jaime Salazar then came in for a 46-yard field goal attempt and missed it wide right, ending the half at 14-10.
"I was disappointed in our coverage," Stoops said. "We need to tighten up. We lost our focus and discipline."
The Wildcats had absolutely nothing going to start the second half, as Taimi Tutogi gained three yards on the ground and Foles followed with two incomplete passes, forcing a punt.
NAU started on its own 15 with a one-yard run by Bauman, but then Trevin Wade picked off Grossart to end his streak of 16 straight completions.
On the first play from scrimmage, Foles hit Antolin on a swing pass for an 18-yard touchdown and the extra point made it 21-10 early in the third quarter.
Arizona then forced NAU into a three and out before taking possession at its own 45-yard line. The Wildcats did not do much with it, as Antolin lost five yards on a carry, Foles was sacked, and Roberts got an eight-yard reception, as the UA punted on fourth down and pinned the Lumberjacks on their own four.
On the first play from scrimmage, Bauman got NAU out of trouble with a 21-yard run. Umodo then caught an eight-yard pass and Bauman was taken down for a loss of two yards on the next play. Unfortunately for Arizona, Vassallo was called for a holding penalty on third down to keep NAU alive on the drive and move the Lumberjacks to their own 45. NAU could not get any momentum from there, as the UA forced it to punt three plays later and took over on its own 15.
Criner started the drive with a 28-yard catch and Crump followed with eight of his own. Antolin then got 20 yards on the ground and, after a five-yard pass to Criner, Foles found Richard Morrison for a 25-yard touchdown with the extra point making it 28-10 with three minutes left in the third.
Arizona then forced NAU out quickly due in large part to a Mohammed Usman sack, as the UA took possession on its own 41. A personal foul penalty by NAU advanced Arizona 15 yards and then foles hit Crump for four yards and Roberts for 11. After a five-yard catch by Buckner, Austin Hill caught his first career pass for the 24-yard touchdown, as the missed extra point made it 34-10 to end the third quarter.
The Arizona defense kept holding its own and NAU was forced to punt, as Arizona started on its own 37. Foles found Roberts for 13 on the first play of the drive and then Ka'Deem Carey came in and had a five,ten, and two-yard carry. After a holding penalty, he also had a five-yard catch, but a false start by Shane Zink brought it back. On third and 18, Foles found Morrison for eight yards. On fourth and 11, Foles completed a 14-yard pass to Buckner for the first down.
On the next play, Arizona was called for holding and Carey followed with a three-yard run. The following play, Foles found Crump for the 18-yard touchdown, as the Alex Zendejas extra point made it 41-10, which would be the final score.
On offense, Foles finished 34-42 for 412 yards and five touchdowns. Antolin led runners with six carries for 51 yards and Criner led all receivers with six catches for 151 yards and a touchdown.
After the game, Stoops was quick to point out the reason for offensive success.
"They (Criner and Foles) are our go-to guys and very established players and that is what we expect from those guys every time they step on the field," Stoops said.
NAU coach Jerome Souers also gave Criner a ton of credit.
"Who wouldn't pass the ball to Criner?," he said. "You would be crazy not to. In order to defend against him you have to have perfect technique and tonight we didn't."
On the defensive side of the ball, C.J. Parish led Arizona with eight tackles and one sack.