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CEDAR CITY -- A questionable ‘no call' stalled Southern Utah's potential go-ahead drive and pushed the victory to Northern Arizona, 26-23, Saturday in Cedar City.
"It's just a bad call," football Head Coach Ed Lamb said. "It's clear on the replay. Just because it's the last meaningful play of the game doesn't make it anymore of a mistake by the officials. That's just how it goes."
Lamb was upset that a pass interference call was not made on a third-and-18 when senior wide receiver Tysson Poots dropped the ball in the end zone.
The Thunderbirds were unable to earn a first down on the next fourth down play giving the Lumberjacks control to run out the clock.
The game was a back and forth affair all night with neither team grabbing the momentum until the Lumberjacks' last drive.
Senior quarterback Michael Herrick led NAU to an 8-play, 65-yard drive in 3:39 minutes that resulted in a 15-yard touchdown pass to freshman running back Zach Bauman to give Northern Arizona the lead.
That set up the T-Birds final drive, which stalled unceremoniously.
Herrick completed 23-for-35 passes for 244 yards, one touchdown and one interception- returned 44 yards by senior cornerback Collin Pretlow early in the first quarter.
The T-Bird defense forced three total turnovers and held the NAU offense to just 340 yards in the game, but SUU sophomore quarterback Brad Sorensen said their own offensive struggles kept the Thunderbirds from ultimately getting the job done.
"Our defense kept us in the ball game," he said. "Our offense struggled moving the ball today and didn't have very many long drives. We've got to pick it up and need to take care of business on offense."
The Thunderbirds had a 10-point lead twice in the first half before Northern Arizona scored nine third-quarter points to take a 19-17 lead.
Senior linebacker Akeem Anifowoshe recovered a muffed punt to start the fourth quarter giving SUU the ball on the NAU 19-yard line.
The T-Birds took advantage of the turnover when Austin Minefee had a one-yard touchdown run to give the T-Birds a 23-19 lead.
The Thunderbirds had a chance to extend that lead, but Ryan McNamara -- who earlier hit a career-long 47-yard field goal -- missed a 29-yard try with 9:51 on the clock.
The four-point lead was quickly taken away with the touchdown pass made by Bauman giving the final lead to NAU.
Minefee had 19 carries for 145 yards and two touchdowns, including a career-long 50-yard score.
Sorensen completed 13-for-27 passing for 154 yards-his lowest passing total of the season- and one interception.
Senior wide receivers Fesi Sitake and Poots combined eight catches for 113 yards. Senior wide receiver Robert Ah Sue had three receptions for 34 yards in the game.
Defensively senior linebacker Troy Bunting led the T-Birds with 10 tackles.
Lamb said the T-Birds are making improvements but aren't getting it done when it counts.
"We have a good football team with a poor record," he said. "We are 0-0 in the conference, and that's what we've got to look forward to this week."
The T-Birds travels to Grand Forks, ND to play the University of North Dakota Saturday at 3 p.m.