It may not be against very good competition, but the NAU offense has put together a heck of a start due in large part to its play at quarterback.
The 6-foot-4, 200-pound freshman grey shirted after attending Ventura Junior College. In two games this season, Cookus is a ridiculous 30-42 for five touchdowns and no interceptions.
Not only does the freshman have 528 passing yards, but he has also added 83 yards on there ground and one touchdown as well.
Of course, you have to keep competition in mind, but considering NAU’s goals this season, it is hard to imagine a better start from its quarterback.
One of the main reasons for Cookus’ success is 6-foot-3, 215-pound sophomore Emmanuel Butler.
In his first game of the season, Butler caught seven passes for 216 yards and three touchdowns.
However, he followed that up with a two catch game in a blowout win. Butler is a big receiver with solid speed and Arizona will have to find a way to slow him down.
Beyond Butler, NAU’s receivers leave a bit to be desired. Senior Alex Holmes has 8 catches for 114 yards and isn’t as explosive as Butler.
The Lumberjacks will use a handful of receivers, but Holmes and Butler are easily the biggest targets and the two players the Wildcats will be focusing on the most in terms of the passing game.
Senior Casey Jahn will get the bulk of the carries for the Lumberjacks. He has 36 carries for 210 yards, but has yet to score.
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound back is solid, but not spectacular. He averaged about 68 yards last season and can be a threat out of the backfield at times.
Sophomore Blake Porter is the starter at center. He started seven games as a freshman and is one of the better players on the NAU offense.
At left tackle is 6-foot-7, 295-pound senior Leroy Guenther, who earned All-Big Sky Honorable Mention last season while starting nine games.
Left guard Eric Rodriguez has started every game the last two seasons and was named to the All-Big Sky Third Team.
Sophomore right tackle Tyler Shank may be one of the more underrated players on offense and started three games last season as a freshman.
The last piece of the puzzle on the offensive line is right tackle Jacob Julian. The 6-foot-4, 300-pound junior only appeared in three games last season, but has the size to be successful that that level.
NAU is an intriguing offense because it feels like it will be one dimensional against a better offense.
The Lumberjacks will likely look to establish the run against Arizona, but Nevada is a better team and tired to do the same.
NAU six fumbles in two games and have only lost one, so some of their offensive success has to do with having a bit of luck.
Players to Watch
#83, TE R.J. Rickert: He only has a few catches this season, but pretty much every opponent Arizona sees will challenge it with the tight end. Rickert definitely isn’t bad and he will targeted a few times.
#8, WR Emmanuel Butler: It doesn’t matter what level you’re playing at, if you put together a 200-yard game, you’re talented.
#15, QB Case Cookus: NAU isn’t winning this game unless Cookus goes off. Arizona will be the first truly hostile environment of his career and he will have to overcome that and more.
Keys to the Game
Make NAU one-dimensional: The Lumberjacks aren’t good enough to beat Arizona with only one part of its offense, If the Wildcats stop the run, it is going to make it nearly impossible for NAU to win.
Force third and long: Similar to above, Arizona wants to put NAU in difficult situation. If Arizona knows what’s coming, it’s hard to imagine the Lumberjacks having much success.
No extra downs: You never want to give an underdog more opportunity than it deserves. Arizona needs to be careful to not commit any unnecessary penalties.