Arizona dominates Northern Arizona in football season opener behind de Laura’s four touchdowns

Sep 2, 2023, 10:35 PM | Updated: Sep 5, 2023, 10:08 am

Arizona quarterback Jayden de Laura (7) and coach Jedd Fisch watch a replay during the first half o...

Arizona quarterback Jayden de Laura (7) and coach Jedd Fisch watch a replay during the first half of the team's NCAA college football game against Northern Arizona, Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Jayden de Laura accounted for four touchdowns, Tacario Davis returned a blocked field goal 85 yards for a score and Arizona opened the season a 38-3 win over Northern Arizona on Saturday night.

Arizona (1-0) lost to the FCS Lumberjacks (0-1) at home two years ago at the start of coach Jedd Fisch’s desert rebuild. The Wildcats had a hard time getting out of their own way in the first half of the rematch before rolling over Northern Arizona in the second.

Sparked by Davis’ return, Arizona turned an 11-point halftime lead to 32 by the end of the third quarter. De Laura punctuated the outburst with a 53-yard TD run, nearly losing his balance before racing up the sideline.

De Laura threw for 285 yards and three touchdowns with an interception in the end zone in the fourth quarter.

The Lumberjacks’ last trip to Tucson was a nadir for them, a low point for the Wildcats.

Northern Arizona’s 21-19 win in 2021 was its first over a Pac-12 opponent and extended Arizona’s losing streak to 15 games, which would later reach 20.

Only a handful of Wildcats’ players are still on the roster from that game, but it was certainly on their minds.

Arizona got off to a good start, scoring on a 4-yard TD pass from de Laura to Jacob Cowing. Johah Coleman made it 14-0 by breaking a tackle and reaching for the pylon on a 7-yard touchdown catch.

The rest of the half was littered with mistakes.

The Wildcats turned the ball over on downs at NAU’s 35-yard line and de Laura lost a fumble inside NAU’s 20-yard line.

Defensively, Arizona extended NAU’s last drive with a roughing the kicker penalty and later added a personal foul. After a holding call negated a touchdown, Marcus Lye kicked a 49-yard field goal to pull the Lumberjacks within 14-3 — still within striking distance despite being outgained 263-100 in total yards.

Riding the momentum of a close first half, NAU reached Arizona’s 14-yard line with the help of a targeting penalty on Arizona defensive back Gunner Maldanado. After a holding call negated a Lumberjacks’ touchdown, Ta’ita’i Uiagalelei blocked Lye’s field goal attempt and Davis returned it for a touchdown.

Momentum, shifted.

Arizona’s defense stopped the Lumberjacks on a fourth-and-2 from their own 38 the next series. Four plays later, de Laura found Tetairoa McMillan on a 5-yard touchdown and later scored on the 53-yard run to make it 35-3.

The takeaways

Northern Arizona: The Lumberjacks didn’t pull off the upset this time, but did enough good things against a Pac-12 opponent that should help them in Big Sky play.

Arizona: The Wildcats had some shaky moments early and too many penalties. The end result turned out to be what they expected against an FCS opponent.

Up next

Northern Arizona: Plays at North Dakota next Saturday.

Arizona: Plays at Mississippi State next Saturday.

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Arizona dominates Northern Arizona in football season opener behind de Laura’s four touchdowns