No. 16 Northern Arizona quarterback Cary Grossart threw four touchdown passes and led an offense that amassed a season-high of 568 total yards in handing North Dakota a 45-38 Homecoming loss on Saturday.
The loss dropped UND to 3-4 overall and 1-3 in the Big Sky Conference, while NAU improved to 5-1 overall and 3-0 in league play. The Lumberjacks were the third straight ranked opponent to knock off UND after the Green and White opened league play with a win at Sacramento State.
"It's always disappointing to lose, but I thought our guys battled and responded to some adversity today," UND head coach Chris Mussman said. "We bounced back after getting down early, but made too many costly mistakes again to beat a good football team like Northern Arizona."
Grossart's aerial attack was augmented by the ground game of junior running back Zach Bauman, who racked up 176 rushing yards on 28 carries despite missing the entire second quarter with an injury.
The senior signal caller did throw a pair of interceptions, which were both hauled in by junior Will Lewis. Those were the first two turnovers for the NAU offense since Grossart threw an interception in the season-opening loss at Arizona State.
UND trailed 14-0 in the first quarter but was able to climb out of the hole and take a pair of third-quarter leads on long touchdown catches by Greg Hardin and Jameer Jackson. The latter was a 43-yard effort that put UND up 31-24 midway through the quarter.
But Grossart's fourth TD strike late in the third quarter ignited an NAU run of 21 straight points as UND lost its third straight overall and third straight Homecoming affair.
After tying the game at 31-31 and forcing a UND punt that the home team downed at the 1-yard line, Grossart marched his team down 99 yards in 12 plays for the go-ahead score.
"That 99-yard drive was what did us in," Mussman said. "We thought we could pin them deep and get a momentum play, but they made the plays when it counted."
Bauman capped the drive with his only touchdown run of the game from 1-yard out.
UND senior quarterback Braden Hanson went 19-for-29 for 233 yards and three touchdowns before leaving late in the fourth quarter after fumbling on a hard hit by Mike Dosen. The Lumberjacks recovered and pushed their lead to 45-31 five plays later.
Hanson was relieved by senior Marcus Hendrickson, who immediately found Hardin for a 17-yard touchdown on his first pass of the game after picking up 27 rushing yards on his first snap.
That pulled UND to within a touchdown, but an onside kick attempt by Zeb Miller was recovered by the Lumberjacks and the offense was able to net a couple of first downs to seal the victory, which was the third straight road win for a team climbing the national rankings.
Hardin finished with eight catches for 83 yards and two scores, while Jackson hauled in six catches for 105 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
For Jackson, it was the first 100-yard receiving game of his career and Hardin's multiple-touchdown effort was the third of the season for the team's leading receiver, who pushed his career total to 21.
NAU's Ify Umodu led all players with nine catches for 118 yards, including a 2-yard touchdown catch.
Mitch Sutton had 10 carries for 62 yards and his ninth rushing touchdown of the season for UND.
UND will play Montana on Saturday at the Alerus Center on ROOT Sports. Kickoff is slated for 1:45 p.m. CT.