The Wildcats settled for something in between in their 37-3 win over Northern Arizona. The Wildcats played a solid game, but didn't come out and destroy the Division I-AA Lumberjacks. The Wildcats basically called off the dogs in the third quarter, but still managed 510 yards of total offense.
Early on it was evident that there were some changes with this team. The offensive minded Wildcats chose to defer the coin toss until the second half, basically choosing to start the game on defense. The Wildcats also showcased improved special teams play from the get go. Ryan Slack placed the opening kick-off into the endzone and showed good leg on most of his kicks. More impressively, Michael Jolivette blocked two NAU punts, each setting up Wildcat
Other facets of the kicking game were also very solid. Despite missing a 29-yard field goal, Sean Keel connected on X more including a 49 yarder. Ramey Peru saw his first kick travel 59 yards.
From the early going it was obvious that the Wildcats were making a concerted effort to get Farmer the ball. Farmer took handoffs, pitches and even was the recipient on the option play during the first Arizona drive. The opening drives saw the junior runner involved in the passing game. Johnson hit Farmer over the middle and a few plays later got him into the open field with a quick screen.
Farmer fumbled a pitch that ended the second drive, but redeemed himself on the very next possession. Following the Jolivette block, the Cats methodically marched down the field and capped the drive when Farmer leaped over the pile for a two-yard score.
A short yardage play ended up going for big yards and put the Lumberjacks in scoring positions. On third and one Brian Bingham followed his fullback into the heart of the line, but bounced off a couple of would-be tacklers before finding daylight and a 60-yard gain. NAU had the ball at the Arizona 12, but failed to find the endzone and settled for a Paul Ernster chip shot field goal.
Arizona answered right away. Johnson connected with Lance Relford for the pair's second big gain. Just three plays later Johnson Found Wade over the middle and the shifty senior broke a tackle, changed directions and sprinted 52 yards to give Arizona the 20-3 lead.
Arizona used the short yardage situation to create a big play of their own. Unlike Bingaham's run, this one was by design. Facing a fourth and less than one, the Cats trotted out a full house, three-deep backfield. Instead of pounding it up the middle, the Cats went with the play fake as Johnson hit a wide-open James Hugo. Hugo slipped past a run stopping defensive lineman and found himself alone in space and turned the play-action pass into a 19-yard score and a 27-3 lead.
Jarvie Worcester made a heads up play when he dived to coral a batted NAU pass. His acrobatic interception gave the Wildcats the ball at the 46-yard line with just :57 left in the half. With great field possession the Wildcats decided to try for a final score and came out in the shotgun. Ha holding penalty did nothing to change Mackovic's mind and the offense continued to look for another score. A draw play to Farmer and a long crossing pattern to Wade gave the Cats a first down inside NAU territory and a long, 32
-yard pass. Despite the aggressive play calling, the Wildcats failed to capitalized when Keel missed from 29 yards out as the half expired.
Promised changes in the defense were apparent in the contest. Arizona mixed up their fronts on a number of occasions. While the customary Double Eagle-Flex was in play most of the game, the Cats did show and traditional 4-3 and 3-4 looks. Joe Siofele did a number of different things, lining up as both a defensive end and at line backer.
The second half saw the Wildcats play a lot of new faces, but Arizona still managed to tack on 10 more points. Johnson and Wade hooked up one more time for the final Wildcat touchdown. Johnson perfectly timed his pass, which fell into Wade's arms in the corner of the endzone.
Arizona had a final chance to score and had the ball at the two-yard line with just seconds left to play. The Wildcats appeared to be trying to get a final play off, but a lineman flinched and the penalty ended the contest.
Jason Johnson finished with 381 yards passing and three touchdowns. Johnson and Cost combined to find 10 different receivers. Mike Bell led a meager running game with 59 yards on 13 carries. Farmer had just 29 yards on 16 carries, but did catch three passes for an additional 29 yards.