SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Chase Cartwright came off the bench to complete 16-of-19 passes for 208 yards and three touchdowns in less than two quarters of work to rally No. 19 Northern Arizona to a 39-38 win over Sacramento State on Saturday night at Hornet Stadium.
The win improved the Lumberjacks to 4-2 overall and 2-1 in Big Sky Conference play. The Hornets fell to 3-4 overall and also moved to the team to 2-1 in league games.
The game had three major swings of momentum which began with NAU taking a 14-3 lead in the first half on a 7-yard run from Zach Bauman and a 4-yard reception by Alex Holmes from Kyren Poe.
The Hornets were held to just a 32-yard Jesse Aguilar field goal through the first 29 minutes of the game before piecing together a 7-play, 79-yard drive which ended with Brandon Kellermann's first career touchdown with the team with just 37 seconds left in the half. Quarterback Garrett Safron completed four of five attempts during the drive and also rushed for an 11-yard gain setting up Kellermann's 1-yard run up the middle.
Sacramento State took its first lead on the opening drive of the second half when Safron rolled to his right on 4th-and-2 from the NAU 22 and hit a wide open DeAndre Carter in the side of the end zone. The touchdown was Carter's 11th receiving TD of the year and his 15th of his career. He moved into a tie with Mitch Oliver (1995) for third place on the school's single-season list and also tied Tony Washington and Eric Harrington for fifth place on the career chart.
The defense took over on the next two series beginning with Robert Beale's 29-yard interception return for a touchdown. The senior picked off the pass in the middle of the field and ran untouched into the end zone for his first career TD and the team's first interception for a touchdown in two years.
Osaige Odiase then intercepted Poe on the next drive which led to freshman Jordan Robinson's 10-yard run up the middle to give Sacramento State a 31-14 lead with 8:07 to play in the third quarter. That advantage was the largest of the night for the Hornets and also ended the outing for Poe as he was replaced by Cartwright.
Cartwright, who had been sidelined by a knee injury this season, completed all six of his pass attempts during his first drive of the year, including a 42-yard touchdown to strike to Nick Cole to start the NAU comeback.
Sacramento State wasn't done as it matched the score when Safron rushed for a 50-yard touchdown up the middle of the field for his longest rush this season. The carry also helped the junior to a career high 110 rushing yards on the night.
The Lumberjacks came right back with a 5-play, 80-yard drive which was highlighted by a 42-yard run from Bauman and ended with Cartwright's 14-yard pass for Jesse Brantley. However, Andy Wilder hit the upright on the PAT preserving the Hornets' 38-27 lead at the end of the third quarter.
After Sacramento State was forced to punt to start the fourth quarter, Cartwright completed 4-of-5 pass attempts including a 4-yard TD pass to RJ Rickert. The two-point conversion attempt fell incomplete making the score 38-33 with 10:09 left in the game.
Northern Arizona took control on the first play from scrimmage for the Hornets when Lucky Dozier intercepted Safron at the 32-yard line. Bauman added a 25-yard touchdown up the middle of the field to give NAU the lead.
The Hornets had two chances late in the fourth quarter but mustered just 17 yards.
Sacramento State finished the night with 397 yards of total offense led by Safron's 220 through the air and 110 on the ground. Carter caught five passes for 106 yards to lead the receivers while Shane Harrison had a team-high seven receptions for 73 yards.
Poe and Cartwright combined for 402 passing yards and four touchdowns to spark NAU. Brantley hauled in a game-high eight passes for 98 yards and Cole added five catches for 104 yards. Bauman rushed for a season-high 196 yards on 27 carries with two scores.
Linebacker Todd Davis recorded 15 tackles, including six solos, to lead all players. Davis also had a tackle-for-loss and a pass break-up. Davis has now had double digit tackles in three of the last four games. Markell Williams was one off his career high with 11 tackles, including a personal best three for loss.
Sacramento State will travel to North Dakota next Saturday. The game will mark the team's first appearance at the Alerus Center and will begin at 12:05 PDT.
NOTES: Sacramento State was called for only one penalty for five yards for the second week in a row…the team intercepted a pair of passes in a game for the first time this season…the last Hornet to return an interception for a touchdown was Kyle Monson at Portland State on Nov. 5, 2011.