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September 29, 2016

(STATS) - Northern Arizona's offense is in veteran hands this week, but the Lumberjacks don't expect to be the same without All-America quarterback Case Cookus, who is sidelined with a shoulder injury.

The redshirt sophomore, the 2015 STATS FCS Freshman of the Year, was injured in the third quarter of last Saturday's loss to Eastern Washington. He's been undergoing tests on the shoulder this week.

Fifth-year senior Blake Kemp, a transfer from East Carolina, is expected to start Saturday when the Lumberjacks visit Northern Colorado.

"I don't think it's impossible to overstate (Cookus') importance to what we do offensively - his ability to play the position," NAU coach Jerome Souers said.

"The injury's a setback for him. He took it really hard. Training our new guy, Blake Kemp, into the position, that's tough to do in the middle of a season. But other teams are having to do it. It's the next guy up."

Kemp, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound left-hander, was the starter at East Carolina last year, throwing for over 300 yards five times in a 5-7 season. He also was a starter for two seasons at Mesa Community College.

Kemp, who replaced Cookus against Eastern Washington, has completed 10 of 15 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions in two games.

Cookus is among the FCS leaders in a number of passing categories. He is 80 of 119 for 1,173 yards and 13 touchdowns with one interception, and has a 184.4 passing efficiency rating.

"No question about it, it's tough," Souers said. "We'll be a little bit of a different team, but I really like Blake Kemp. He's a great competitor, great young man. I think the football team has responded well to him already."

Cookus threw seven touchdown passes in NAU's win over Northern Colorado last season. This year, the Lumberjacks were the preseason favorite in the Big Sky Conference, but they are 1-3 with the loss to Eastern Washington in their conference opener.

Northern Colorado (2-1) is playing its first Big Sky game.

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