No. 14 SUU (6-1; 8-2) will host No. 23 NAU (6-1; 7-3) in a de facto conference championship game on Saturday, Nov. 18 at Eccles Coliseum. Not only will these schools be battling to win the Grand Canyon Rivalry trophy, the winner will get to hoist the Big Sky title hardware.
Despite only dating back to 1982, the rivalry does not lack intensity. The Lumberjacks lead the all-time series 12-8 and dominated the early era. The Thunderbirds have turned the tide as of late though, winning five of the last six matchups, including a 48-21 drubbing in Flagstaff last season. With the league title and an automatic bid to the FCS playoffs on the line, this weekend’s game should be more intense than ever.
The Thunderbird offense averages 34.2 points per game, which ranks fourth in the conference. Senior quarterback Patrick Tyler has thrown for 2,431 yards, 20 TD and 11 interceptions this season. An injury to SUU’s leading rusher, sophomore James Felila, will mean that sophomore running back Jay Green will assume a larger role. Green has amassed 497 yards and 10 TD this year. Freshman Landen Measom is the T-Bird’s leading receiver, totaling 528 yards and four TD.
SUU’s defense ranks fifth in the Big Sky, allowing 28.6 points per game. Senior linebacker Mike Needham leads the team with 85 total tackles. Senior defensive back Jarmaine Doubs has tallied four interceptions.
Sophomore quarterback Case Cookus leads the Lumberjack offense which ranks fifth in the league at 33.3 points per game. Cookus has 2,989 passing yards, 20 TD and five interceptions. Sophomore running back Joe Logan leads NAU with 650 rushing yards and six TD. Junior running back Cory Young follows right behind with 640 yards and seven TD. Senior wide receiver Elijah Marks is second best in the Big Sky, racking up 1,084 yards and six TD.
NAU’s defense has allowed 26.7 points per game, ranking them third in the conference. Senior linebacker Byron Evans leads the Lumberjacks with 68 total tackles. Junior defensive lineman James Walton has recorded 13 tackles for loss.
Both teams are well equipped with offensive playmakers, setting up for a potential thriller. The implications along with both team’s talent level make for a can’t-miss the regular season finale.
The game kicks off at 2:30 p.m. MST with a tailgate party beginning at 12:30 p.m. MST. If you can’t make it out to the Eccles Coliseum, watch the game on Eleven Sports (channel 623 for DirecTV or channel 9794 for Dish Network). The game will also be streamed on Pluto TV. Audio will be available on KSUB 590.
Aaron Peterson for SUU News