The Bearkat football team suffered another agonizing loss last weekend after seven turnovers contributed to stagnating what should have been a good offensive day. No 18 Northern Arizona, earned a playoff birth after pummeling the Kats 34-18.
Things looked bad from the beginning for the men in orange. The Kats first possession started on the one after an efficient Lumberjack punt. On the first play of the drive, junior quarterback Travis Tobaben mishandled the snap and put the ball on the ground. The Jacks recovered the fumble and put the ball in the end zone on the following play.
“We had a real difficult game,” said head coach Ron Randleman. “That first fumble was on a quick snap, and Travis lost control of it. You can’t give them the ball on the one yard line.”
The Kats answered back with a 37-yard field goal by junior Joey Price. The game stayed close until being interrupted by lightning about midway through the second quarter. The delay lasted 31 minutes. Randleman said that he used the time much like he would a half time but that neither team could benefit.
“Something like that is difficult for both teams,” said Randleman. “We just treated it like a half time, going over the things that we normally would.”
The Lumberjacks struck quickly after coming back out after the delay. NAU scored 24 unanswered points and capitalized off every Bearkat mistake. Despite finishing the day with more total offense than their opponents, the turnover bug proved to be the reoccurring vice that has plagued the young Bearkat team the entire season and again in this game. They finished the day with four fumbles and three interceptions.
“Everybody was frustrated,” said Tobaben. “We had a chance to beat a ranked team and we couldn’t get it done.”
Randleman again experimented with the quarterback position. Tobaben started for the injured freshman Wade Pate. Randleman attempted to spark the struggling offense by replacing Tobaben with freshman Adam Karas early on. Karas finished the day with 11 carries for 139 yards and passed for another 83 yards
“I thought he (Tobaben) was struggling,” said Randleman. “He made some decisions that he probably shouldn’t have and we thought Adam might help us move the ball a little better.”
Both Karas and sophomore running back Jason Godfrey accumulated over a hundred yards for the fourth straight week on the ground. Offensively, the Kats gained 465 yards of offense as opposed to the Lumberjacks 367. The big difference was a -5 turnover margin and good field position for one of the nations top Division I-AA offenses.
“The defense played well,” said Randleman. “They were put into some tough positions but did a great job of holding one of the top offenses. We held them to 2-14 on third down conversions and they are one of the best in the nation on third down.”
With only one game left, the end to a struggling season is near. Next weekend the Kats will have to bounce back after another agonizing defeat and travel to San Marcos to play Texas State University.
“Every loss hurts the same,” said Tobaben. “You have to come out and wipe the slate clean before every game and that’s what we are going to have to do.”