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Arizona suffers embarrassing home loss to NAU, skid extends to 15 games

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arizona-wildcats-nau-lumberjacks-final-score-recap-highlights-football-losing-streak-fcs-2021 Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Forget whatever you thought were the worst points in Arizona football history: this is rock bottom.

The Wildcats, which closed as a 27-point favorite against NAU, lost 21-19 to their FCS in-state foe on Saturday night at Arizona Stadium. The smallest home crowd in the UA’s Pac-10/12 history—33,481—witnessed an absolutely dreadful performance to extend the losing streak to 15 games, the longest active skid in FBS.

It was Arizona’s first loss to NAU since 1932 and its first to a team not currently playing at the FBS level since falling to West Texas A&M in 1961.

Using its third-string quarterback, Arizona (0-3) had a chance to force overtime but, like so many other times on Saturday, it came up short. It drove 85 yards in 2:14 and scored on a 2-yard touchdown pass from Jordan McCloud to Boobie Curry but then missed on a 2-point conversion when McCloud was pressured and his throw to BJ Casteel was short.

Arizona had lined up for 2 with three tight ends and a fullback, spreading the TEs out wide, but had to call timeout to avoid a false start, then opted for a more conventional alignment that didn’t produce.

The Wildcats led 13-7 at the half—tied for the most points it had in the first half since scoring 19 (but still trailing by 16) in a 56-38 loss to Oregon State in October 2019. That was despite three takeaways, six trips into NAU territory and two visits to the red zone that each resulted in just a field goal.

The Wildcats got inside the NAU 40 on its first second-half drive but turned it over on downs when Will Plummer’s pass to Drake Anderson didn’t connect near the marker. The Lumberjacks responded by going 65 yards in seven plays, capped by a 12-yard touchdown run by Kevin Daniels to put them up 14-13 with 4:16 left in the third.

That drive was aided by two targeting penalties on the UA, first on defensive end Mo Diallo and the second on safety Jaxen Turner. Both will have the sit out the first half of Arizona’s Pac-12 opener at Oregon next Saturday.

A second Plummer pick with 12:53 left set up the Lumberjacks’ game-sealing score, a 9-yard TD pass from true freshman RJ Martinez to Hendrix Jackson to put them up 21-13 with 7:53 to go. That drive included some of the bad tackling from the week before, particularly on a pair of third-down plays, as well as a personal foul on Christian Roland-Wallace that moved NAU into the red zone.

Plummer—who was 19 of 34 for 191 yards with a TD and two picks—was then replaced by McCloud. The South Florida transfer was sacked on his first snap and the UA punted three plays later rather than go for it on 4th and 5 from its own 41.

McCloud’s second drive saw him go 5 for 5 for 50 yards before missing on the 2-point play.

Arizona’s defense and special teams set up its first score. Kyon Barrs sacked NAU quarterback Jeff Widener on third down, forcing a punt that Stanley Berryhill returned 53 yards to the Lumberjack 18. The Wildcats couldn’t capitalize on the short field, only managing a 31-yard field goal from Lucas Havrisik to go up 3-0 with 5:13 left in the first quarter.

The UA went up 10-0 just over three minutes later on a 49-yard TD pass from Plummer to Boobie Curry, the first of his career, to make it 10-0 late in the first.

Kenny Hebert picked off Widener late in the first quarter, returning it to the NAU 24, but again the Wildcats stalled in the red zone and settled for a 24-yard Havrisik field goal to lead 13-0 with 13:05 left in the first half.

The 13-point margin was Arizona’s largest since leading Colorado 13-0 at home last December, a game it would lose 24-13.

Arizona would only manage 68 yards on its remaining five drives in the first half, including one that lasted a single play and resulted in a 28-yard interception return by NAU’s Brady Shough to cut the lead to 13-7 with 1:48 left before halftime.

The UA outgained NAU 363-222, the fewest it had allowed since giving up 218 in a 2018 win at UTEP.