Northern Colorado Football is successful in all three phases against Northern Arizona

The University of Northern Colorado (3-7, 2-5 Big Sky) defeated Northern Arizona (3-7, 2-5 Big Sky) 21-20 for their Senior Day matchup on Saturday.

Despite the point standings and a few errors, UNC put on their best overall performance all season. Players in all three phases made big plays and reacted when it mattered most.

Here’s how each positional group fared in victory.

Attack: B+

The Bears had a strong game against the Jacks, rushing for 335 yards and 22 first downs.

Graduate quarterback Dylan McCaffrey completed 22 of 41 passes for 195 yards, two touchdowns and ran for a net for 64 yards. He actually gained 91 yards, 38 of them on the final drive, but lost yards on a few plays.

McCaffrey threw an interception that turned into a NAU touchdown for the lead, which wasn’t ideal.

Again the bears reacted. UNC put together a 24-play, 96-yard drive that ended in a touchdown and a two-point conversion.

Second wide receiver Ty Arrington caught the crucial 15-yard TD pass while senior tight end Max Pierce caught the conversion and stretched his body over the goal line.

Graduate running back Elijah Dotson led the team with 84 rushing yards, while graduate wide receiver Trevis Graham caught four passes for 61 yards.

UNC struggled on the third descent, getting only 4 out of 18. However, they succeeded on the fourth descent, converting on 4 out of 5 attempts.

The biggest advantage for the offensive was their ability to make up for mistakes. It had a lot of drops, the offensive line struggled at times, and sometimes things didn’t go as planned. Despite this, it won and created clutch games. This is important, especially on a team that hasn’t finished rides or games yet.

Defence: B+

The defense was another example of not having a perfect game and still making big plays in big moments.

In the first half, the UNC defense stayed solid, giving up just 10 points. His performance included two first-down penalties and 209 NAU yards, but the limited scoring was significant.

Northern Colorado allowed the Lumberjacks to tally 473 total yards but kept the visitor below his season scoring average.

Nine rides in northern Arizona ended with no points. The defense forced a fumble, five punts, and a few turnovers on downs. On the final drive, UNC held NAU in poor field position, forcing the Jacks to attempt a 53-yard field goal. it was short

Linebackers Tama Tuitele and sophomore Elijah Anderson-Taylor also had great individual performances. Tuitele ended the tournament with a career and game best total of 14 tackles. Anderson-Taylor had a career-high 11 solo.

Again there were penalties and the Bears let the Jacks take a late lead but came out big in the end. That deserves praise, especially for dropping 50+ points in multiple competitions.

Special teams: A+

UNC have been lacking in explosive plays this season, especially on special teams. Yes, Dotson recorded the 82-yard punt return touchdown against Idaho State, but few other plays come to mind right away.

That changed on Saturday.

Dotson finished with 170 all-purpose yards. Forty of those were on kick return. He has contributed seven games, three in a row, with 100 or more all-purpose yards.

Graduated defenseman Uryan Hudson also added 19 punt return yards.

One of the most impressive special teams plays came from junior defenseman Tizell Lewis. He blocked a punt from northern Arizona in the third quarter. UNC turned this into a field goal.

Sophomore kicker/punter Devin Bale went 2-of-2 on field goal attempts and scored the extra point. He averaged nearly 44 yards on his seven punts and three touchbacks on five kickoffs.

UNC did all of this and limited the jacks on the opposite side.

Northern Colorado was within field goal range late in the game but chose to fake and ended up with a turnover at Downs. That should probably go against the coaching staff because the special teams guys did a great job.

Overall: A

The game was entertaining and the team completed drives. Perhaps the bar is low, and some people might disagree, but UNC put together an entire game. It’s been looking for it all season.

Every single position group played hard, showed impressive moves and didn’t let any mistakes determine the game.

That’s worth a lot of credit. The Bears have done everything they can against a fierce rival that almost angered the state of Montana. That’s worth celebrating.

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