[Vandal] Northern Arizona Up And Down This Season

robiegruss at aol.com robiegruss at aol.com
Fri Oct 29 11:02:07 PDT 2021


>From The Lewiston TribuneLewiston, IdahoFriday, October 29, 2021
Northern Arizona Up And Down This Season
Idaho’s next opponent features a rising freshman star at QB
By Stephan Wiebe
Idaho football’s next opponent presents its best chance to get a win since defeating Portland State three weeks ago.
Here are three things to know about Northern Arizona before the Lumberjacks (3-4, 2-2 Big Sky) and Vandals (2-5, 1-3) battle at 1 p.m. Saturday (ESPN+/SWX) at the Kibbie Dome:
1) NAU’s freshman QB is pretty good
While Idaho has played two freshman quarterbacks at different points this season, Northern Arizona has settled in on a first-year quarterback of its own.
RJ Martinez entered the field for the first time as a Lumberjack in the second quarter of a Sept. 18 game against Arizona and led NAU to a massive upset of the Pac-12 foe, 21-19.
Since then, he’s started NAU’s past four games and played well enough to earn a spot on the Jerry Rice Award Watchlist — an honor that goes to the best freshman of the year in the Football Championship Subdivision.
He joined fellow Big Sky players Nate Bennett (receiver) of Portland State and Blake Glessner (kicker) of Montana on the watch list.
“RJ Martinez is kind of the quarterback they’ve went with the last four weeks,” Idaho coach Paul Petrino said. “He’s a good quarterback, does a lot of great things.”
A dual threat quarterback, Martinez has thrown for 1,219 yards at a 62.9-percent clip with nine touchdowns to just two interceptions for a passer rating of 143.5.
He also ranks second on the team with 183 yards rushing on 39 attempts with three touchdowns, including a 41-yard score against Idaho State.
His arm and legs will be a focus for an Idaho defense that is yet to face a clear dual-threat at the position this season.
2) Duality of season
In its past five games, NAU has finished with almost every possible outcome in a college football game.
There was its wild upset against the Wildcats. After that was a narrow 17-10 overtime loss against Northern Colorado.
Then came two blowout victories against the Bengals (48-17) and Southern Utah Thunderbirds (59-35).Finally, NAU was embarrassed 44-0 by Sacramento State on Saturday.
So which Lumberjacks team will show up in the Dome? The high-flying team that blew out conference foes on back-to-back weeks? The team that upset its Pac-12 neighbor 250 miles to the south? Or the NAU group that couldn’t muster a single point against the Hornets?
NAU’s inconsistency makes this game a tough one to call.
“A lot of things go through your head after that loss (to the Hornets),” NAU coach Chris Ball said. “You get on the bus and get on the plane, and you start second-guessing everything, and people start questioning what you’re doing … I think we need to keep sticking to the script and moving forward.”
3) Idaho’s Arizonan conglomerate
“Northern” Arizona actually is the program that is the furthest south in the Big Sky.
So it might come as a surprise that Idaho features eight players from the Grand Canyon State.
Some of these Arizonan Vandals went to the same schools as their NAU counterparts.
Three Vandals hail from Saguaro High School — safety KJ Jarrell, receiver Hayden Hatten and linebacker Hogan Hatten — same school as NAU receiver Xander Werner.
And Idaho receiver/defensive end Dalton Cash attended Pinnacle High School in Phoenix, where NAU’s Amelec Juntunen and Adam Verbalaitis graduated.
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