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Arizona vs. NAU: First look at the Lumberjacks

The Wildcats host a familiar face for their home opener

arizona-wildcats-nau-lumberjacks-first-look-preview-cookus-chris-ball-2019-home-opener Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats return home after a disappointing loss to Hawaii. With a bye week to digest and move on, the Wildcats must now focus on the in-state foe, NAU.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7:45 pm local time and will be televised on the Pac-12 Network.

Here’s a quick look at the Lumberjacks.

First look

2019 record: 1-0; Week one win vs. Missouri State (37-23)

2018 record: 4-6 (3-4, 8th in the Big Sky)

Key offensive players: QB Case Cookus, RB Joe Logan, WR Brandon Porter, OT Cole Habib

Key defensive players: DT Jalen Goss, LB Tristen Vance, LB Taylor Powell, CB Khalil Dorsey

First year head coach Chris Ball has landed in a comfortable spot. In spite of its 4-6 finish in 2018, NAU returns senior quarterback Case Cookus. After being injured much of last year he had the opportunity to play elsewhere as a graduate transfer but ultimately decided to stay in Flagstaff in attempt to finish his Lumberjack career on a positive note.

Cookus and his teammates will play this season with heavy hearts after the unexpected passing of left guard Malik Noshi. He was the only offensive lineman to receive All-Big Sky accolades in 2018.

The offensive line returns center Chase Laurita and right guard Luke Rudolph. Laurita has been battling injuries throughout the offseason and his status for this matchup is unclear. If he plays, that adds a layer of experience along with Rudolph and left tackle Cole Habib, who returns from a torn ACL in 2018.

As for the rest of the skill positions, running back Joe Logan has familiarity and success playing in Tucson. In 2017, Logan was one of two backs to eclipse the century mark against Arizona, finishing with 101 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.

Wide receiver Brandon Porter is the top returning pass catcher and was second best in 2018 for the Lumberjacks. His 325 yards and single score on 28 receptions is a testament to the team’s inability generate a passing offense once Cookus went down.

Defensively speaking, the ‘Jacks have returning key pieces on all three levels. Defensive tackle Jalen Goss, linebacker Tristan Vance and cornerback Khalil Dorsey are players to watch. Definitely keep an eye on Dorsey, who earned first team all-conference honors last season.

Additional names to know are linebacker Taylor Powell and defensive lineman Aaron Andrews. Powell has had a difficult time staying healthy throughout his career. His status for this matchup is also unknown but if he plays, it will be a huge boost to the front seven.

This should be a nice tuneup game for UA after the letdown that was the season opener. It will also serve as the last live-game prep before Texas Tech comes to town on Sept. 14. I don’t want to look ahead to the Red Raiders but hopefully the Wildcats take control early and the starters are out by the fourth quarter.