April 23, 2016

(STATS) - Northern Arizona football wouldn't mind making the 40th anniversary of the Walkup Skydome extra special.

Perhaps an FCS playoff game or two to extend the 2016 season.

The Lumberjacks have been working toward what they hope will be a banner campaign and they wrapped up spring practices Saturday with the Gold team topping the Blue squad today 65-47.

"I thought a lot of the returners looked really sharp today," 19th-year coach Jerome Souers said. "The first line looked fairly solid and we protected a lot. Defensively, we wanted to go out and execute. We were a little late on a few plays in the first half, before we settled in and started playing well. I'm more worried about the quality of play together rather than the scoreboard."

NAU has gone a combined 14-2 over the last three seasons inside its Skydome, which sits nearly 7,000 feet above sea level in Flagstaff. That includes 5-0 last year, when the Lumberjacks went 7-4 overall but missed the FCS playoffs after falling to Big Sky champion Southern Utah on the final day of the regular season.

Quarterback Case Cookus' emerged into the STATS FCS Freshman of the Year, throwing for 37 touchdowns, an FCS record for a freshman. He and big-play wide receiver Emmanuel Butler are two of seven returning starters on offense. They combined on a 25-yard touchdown pass in the spring game.

The defense gets back six starters, although its secondary is quite young except for LeAndre Vaughn, a senior safety.

The Lumberjacks will open their 2016 season by visiting Arizona State on Sept. 3.

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