NAU did lose its opener against ASU Saturday, but the Lumberjacks may have found a starting quarterback.
Senior Lance Kriesien ran, threw and even punted his way to the top of the depth chart.
Coach Jerome Souers said before the game that he would use multiple quarterbacks, but Kriesien played the lion’s share of the snaps.
“The first half, we had a lot of problems,” Souers said. “We go from playing and practicing at our level to the intensity and competition of [Saturday], and we had a hard time adjusting.”
Kriesien started the game, but after a scoreless first quarter, sophomore Michael Herrick got the call.
The Lumberjack offense continued to stall under Herrick’s direction and NAU found itself in a 27-0 hole at halftime.
Kriesien started the second half and stayed in for the remainder of the game.
“The quarterback battle brought out a better part of me physically,” Kriesien said. “We’re going to continue to play and hopefully [reach the] Big Sky [Conference] Championship.”
Kriesien led the Lumberjacks on three scoring drives in the second half, including a 10-play, 53-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.
With Kriesien at the helm, the NAU offense advanced the ball slowly and was helped by some ASU penalties in the red zone. The drive ended when Kriesien rolled out on a play action fake and found redshirt freshman tight end Brian Riley open for the Lumberjacks only touchdown.
The Lumberjacks faced too much early adversity to make a comeback but managed to get on the scoreboard in the second half to make the final score a more respectable, 30-13.
Kriesien’s favorite target was senior tight end Shaun Fitzpatrick, a Gilbert native, who caught three passes for 59 yards, all in the second half.
“As a leader on this team, I have to be more active,” Kriesien said. “Not just on the offensive side, but the whole team as well.”
Junior wide receiver Ed Berry also had three catches for 50 yards.
When all was said and done, Kriesien completed 17 of 31 attempts for 152 yards and also ran for 25 yards.
“It was a tale of two halves,” Kriesien said. “We learned more in the second half and showed our character as a team.”
The defense also improved in the second half. With ASU senior quarterback Rudy Carpenter already out of the game, the Lumberjack defense managed to keep the Sun Devils out of the end zone and gave up only three points.
The Lumberjacks were stout against the run, giving up only 94 yards, but struggled defending the pass.
“I thought Rudy Carpenter looked great in the pocket,” Souers said. “We saw him a few years ago, and that’s not even the same guy.”
Kriesien said he is hoping he can steadily improve too.
“I feel like this is my team regardless,” Kriesien said. “It’s my senior year and my last go around. I won’t accept anything less.”
Knowing the job is his to lose, Kriesien said he wants to return to the big stage, but exit with a different result.
“I love playing in this environment,” Kriesien said. “The loud environment is what I tend to build off of.
“That’s something you can’t simulate in practice no matter how hard you try.”
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