Northern Arizona is trying to finish the season strong after winning just one of its first two spring games. Meanwhile, Southern Utah is 1-4 during the spring and will try to bounce back after dropping back-to-back contests.
Can the Thunderbirds snap their skid at home against Northern Arizona on Saturday evening?
Lumberjacks fall short vs. No. 3-Weber StateNorthern Arizona suffered a hard-fought 28-23 loss on the road against No. 3-ranked Weber State last week. Quarterback Keondre Wudtee returned from a one-game absence to complete 21 of 40 passes for 204 passing yards with one interception in the loss. Draycen Hill did most of the damage for the Lumberjacks offense, finishing with 136 rushing yards, including a 49-yards touchdown run to cut Weber State’s lead to just four points at halftime.
Wudtee had the offense moving in his return last week. In addition to his performance through the air, the senior added 52 yards and a score on the ground with his legs. The Lumberjacks actually outgained Weber State 442 to 386 last week and managed 24 first downs against one of the nation’s best defenses. Despite the impressive performance, the offense was crippled by three turnovers on the day. Wide receiver Brandon Porter and backup quarterback Jeff Widener both threw interceptions on their only pass attempts of the day.
Defense has not been the Lumberjacks’ calling card this season. Northern Arizona enters the weekend ranked 85th in the nation in scoring defense at 35.3 points per game. The Lumberjacks have been especially vulnerable against the run, giving up 182 yards per game on the ground through four contests.
Thunderbirds can't complete upset versus Weber StateSouthern Utah lost a nail biter 19-16 versus Weber State last week. Quarterback Justin Miller completed 24 of 43 passes for 181 yards and added a one-yard touchdown run while La'akea Kaho'ohanohano-Davis returned a blocked punt 25 yards for a score in the loss.
Losing close games has been a painful trend for the Thunderbirds during the spring. Despite sporting a disappointing 1-4 record, Southern Utah actually has a +3 point differential on the year. The Thunderbirds have dropped their four games by a combined seven points, losing each game by three points or fewer.
Miller has been carrying the Thunderbirds offense during a breakout sophomore campaign. The 6-foot-3 signal-caller has thrown for 1,198 yards with 13 touchdowns and only three interceptions during the spring after attempting just eight passes during his freshman season.
On defense, the Thunderbirds have allowed just 22.8 points per game, 41st in the FCS. Southern Utah has also been stout against the run, limiting opponents to just 120.2 yards per game on the ground, which ranks 26th in the country.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
Both of these teams gave Weber State a run for its money in their previous game heading into this matchup. However, the Lumberjacks have had an extra week to prepare and should be able to keep up with the Thunderbirds’ aerial attack. Wudtee has flashed the ability to keep the chains moving when healthy and could be poised for a strong game here. On the other side of the ball, Northern Arizona’s defense is most vulnerable on the ground but Southern Utah doesn’t really run the football well. Take the Lumberjacks to cover the spread on the road in this Big Sky battle on Saturday.
Full-Game Total Pick
These two teams are projected for 58 points but that seems like a low number in this spot. Northern Arizona hasn’t scored more than 23 points since hosting the Thunderbirds at the end of February but the Lumberjacks’ offense performed admirably in its last game on the road against Weber State. Meanwhile, Southern Utah has scored at least 30 points in three of its five games during the spring season. These two teams have also combined for 67 and 61 points in their last two meetings dating back to last season. Take the over in this matchup on Saturday evening.