Azusa Pacific, Humboldt State Winners In Football Week 1
Azusa Pacific opened the GNAC season on Thursday, coming back from a 21-0 second quarter deficit to beat West Texas A&M 29-20.
Azusa Pacific opened the GNAC season on Thursday, coming back from a 21-0 second quarter deficit to beat West Texas A&M 29-20.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Humboldt State took early control of the GNAC championship race thanks to a win over Western Oregon in a rare week one conference game to open the 2015 GNAC football season.

The Lumberjacks beat the Wolves at home, 29-20, to lead a week that saw six of the league’s seven teams in action.

The season began in earnest last Thursday when defending champion Azusa Pacific traveled south to West Texas A&M. The Cougars rebounded from a 21-0 second quarter deficit and took their only lead with 5:43 to go for a 27-24 win.

The pollsters rewarded the Cougars as they climbed two spots to No. 17 in the AFCA Division II Top-25 Poll and five spots to No. 18 in the Top-25 Poll.

Central Washington put up a hard-fought battle at defending Division II national champion CSU-Pueblo in a game broadcast regionally by the American Sports Network. The Wildcats could not rebound from a 31-7 halftime deficit, however, dropping a 41-14 decision to the ThunderWolves.

Week two of the GNAC season finds all seven teams in action and includes three of non-conference games against conference opponents. Central Washington will host Dixie State in a Thursday night contest, while Western Oregon welcomes Simon Fraser for their first game of the season. Humboldt State travels south to Azusa Pacific in what could be an early preview of an unofficial GNAC championship game. The Cougars and Jacks will play their conference contest in Arcata, Calif., on Oct. 10.

South Dakota Mines is the only GNAC team not playing an in-conference opponent. The Hardrockers will host Black Hills State for the 130th edition of “The Black Hills Brawl,” the longest running rivalry game in Division II and the third longest running in college football.

The GNAC enters the week with two of the top passing offenses in Division II. Western Oregon is ranked 10th with 368 passing yards per game while South Dakota Mines is is 21st with an average of 332 passing yards per game after week one.

Ja’Quan Gardner, Humboldt State
RB • 5-7 • 190 • Senior • Ceres, Calif.
Gardner led the Humboldt State offense with 201 yards on 33 carries, helping lead the Lumberjacks to a 27-20 GNAC win over Western Oregon. He scored a touchdown just a minute into the second quarter and also had a game-long 42-yard run in the fourth quarter that helped set up a field goal. Also Nominated: DeJon Coleman (Dixie State).

Codey Heidebrecht, Humboldt State
DE • 6-2 • 250 • Senior • Pleasanton, Calif.
Heidebrecht was responsible for both of Humboldt State’s defensive takeaways in their 27-20 win over Western Oregon. He came up with an interception and returned it for 23 yards in the first quarter, setting up the Lumberjacks’ first touchdown. He also forced and recovered a fourth quarter fumble to go along with four tackles (three solo). Also Nominated: Kahani Smith (Dixie State).

Jacob Hall, Azusa Pacific
K/P • 6-2 • 175 • Freshman • Greenville, Ill.
The freshman kicker had two field goals in the Cougars’ 27-24 come-from-behind win at West Texas A&M on Thursday, topped by a 35-yarder with 28 seconds left in the second quarter. He finished going 2 for 3 on the field goals while making all three of his extra-point attempts. Also Nominated: DeJon Coleman (Dixie State).

CANYON, Texas - Azusa Pacific shook off a slow start, rallying from a 21-0 second quarter deficit to beat West Texas A&M 27-24. The Cougars allowed 255 yards and four touchdowns on West Texas A&M’s first four possessions before limiting the Buffaloes to three points the rest of the way. Azusa Pacific limited West Texas A&M to only two drives of 16 yards of more in the final 40 minutes. By the end, Azusa Pacific outgained West Texas A&M 405 yards to 392 in total offense and held on to the ball for 36 minutes. Quarterback Chad Jeffries completed 17 of 32 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns.Sam Flemming lead the APU defense with 11 tackles.

ARCATA, Calif. - Humboldt State scored the first 19 points of the game and never looked back, treating a Redwood Bowl capacity crowd to a 29-20 victory over Western Oregon in a rare week one GNAC contest. An interception by Codey Heinebrecht, one of two takeaways he managed in the game, set up the game’s first touchdown. That was followed by a one-yard Ja’Quan Gardner run, a 39-yard field goal by Cameron Southward and a safety. Western Oregon finally got on the board late in the first quarter when quarterback Trey Shimabukuro found Andy Agvi on a 16-yard touchdown pass with 4:02 left in the first half. The Wolves cut the lead to five when Shimabukuro found Paul Revis for a 33-yard touchdown strike before the Lumberjacks scored the next 10 points to close out the game. Gardner led the HSU offense with 201 yards rushing on 33 carries and a touchdown. Humboldt quarterback Robert Webber completed 27 of 27 for 106 yards and two touchdowns. Shimabukuro completed 26 of 38 for 368 yards and three touchdowns to lead Western Oregon. Revis caught six balls for 116 yards and a score. Humboldt State freshman Daniel Castro led all defensive players with 12 tackles.

PUEBLO, Colo. - In front of a regional television audience, Central Washington found themselves victims of a huge second quarter by CSU-Pueblo as the ThunderWolves rolled to a 41-14 victory. After matching the home team in the first quarter with a Jake Nelson 34-yard touchdown pass to Arthur Burns, CSU-Pueblo put the game out of reach by scoring 24 unanswered points in the second quarter.  The Wildcats were further hindered by five turnovers, all of which the ThunderWolves converted into points. Kent McKinney, Jr., had CWU’s other touchdown, catching a 32-yard pass from Nelson with 7:52 left in the third quarter. CSU-Pueblo outgained Central Washington in total offense 411-290, which included 298 yards rushing. Nelson finished completing 15 of 30 for 190 yard with two touchdowns and two interceptions. McKinney caught six passes for 84 yards while Burns finished with 34 yards receiving and 32 yards rushing. Cameron McDondle led CSU-Pueblo offensively, rushing for 176 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries. Elijah Suka led the CWU defense with 11 tackles.

ST. GEORGE, Utah - Dixie State could not overcome a string of big plays by Colorado Mesa, falling 43-3 at Hansen Stadium. Both teams punted on thier first possessions before Colorado Mesa’s Tom Saager returned an interception 38 yards for a touchdown. That started a string of 34 unanswered points for the Mavericks, which ended when Alex Giordani connected on a 32-yard field goal just before halftime to make it 34-3. The Mavericks scored two more times in the second half to close out the contest. Dixie State was outgained on offense 582 to 287. The Red Storm had 166 rushing yards, 95 of those on the feet of quarterback Blake Barney. DeJon Coleman finished with 62 yards on 12 carries. Colton Olson led the Red Storm defense with nine tackles.

GOLDEN, Colo. - Colorado Mines scored the first 28 points of the game, putting South Dakota Mines in an insurmountable hole in a 63-28 loss to the Orediggers in Golden, Colo. Colorado Mines scored their first four touchdowns over the first 20 minutes of the contest, a string that wasn’t broken until Hardrockers’ quarterback Trent McKinney found Mark Sanchez on a 30-yard touchdown pass with 8:56 to go in the first half. Running back Devon Nixon added a score on a one-yard rush with 2:29 remaining to make it 42-14 at half. The Hardrockers wouldn’t score again until Jake Sullivan hit Ben Broecker for a 21-yard touchdown pass with 1:19 left.  Colorado Mines put up an incredible 703 yards of offense, including 555 yards passing. South Dakota Mines finished with 474 yards, 332 of which came in the air. McKinney completed 21 of 35 passes for 227 yards and a touchdown while Sanchez caught six balls for 91 yards and a touchdown. Troy Kurtz led the South Dakota Mines defense with nine tackles. Colorado Mines’ quarterback Justin Dvorak completed 37 of 49 for 555 yards and eight touchdowns.

• Azusa Pacific extended their current win streak to 10 games with their 27-24 come-from-behind victory at West Texas A&M. The Cougars are tied with CSU-Pueblo for Division II’s longest winning streak. It is the third longest in program history.

• Chad Jeffries completed 17 of 32 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns at West Texas A&M. He enters the week ranked second in the GNAC in passing and is third in pass efficiency at 131.9.  His 296 yards of total offense is 40th among Division II players.

• Azusa Pacific held onto the ball against West Texas A&M for 36 minutes, 41 seconds, ranking the Cougars seventh in Division II. Clarion leads Division II with 40 minutes, 35 seconds per game. Azusa Pacific was 16th in the nation in the category last year, averaging 32:53 per game.

• Thanks to his two field goals against West Texas A&M, freshman Jacob Hall is seventh in Division II with his average of two field goals per game.

• Defensive back Josh Atkinson is ranked 11th in Division II in interceptions (1) and 23rd in passes defended (2.0), joining five other GNAC players also tied at No. 23 in the category.

• Punter Blaine Aguiar is 13th in Division II with his average of 43.6 yards per punt. Aguiar punted five times for 218 yards, which included a long punt of 58 yards.

• Despite solid performance in preseason games, 2014 Division II All-American and GNAC Player of the Year Terrell Watson was cut by the Cincinnati Bengals on the final day of camp. Watson was kept in the organization, however, as part of the 10-man practice squad.

• Central Washington played their game at defending Division II champion CSU-Pueblo in front of a large regional television audience. Selected as the American Sports Network’s Division II Football Showcase game, the contest was broadcast in 11 states on both the Altitude and Comcast SportsNet Northwest networks.

• The Wildcats had a bright spot on special teams against CSU-Pueblo. They enter the week leading the GNAC and 22nd in kickoff returns, averaging 26.8 yards on four returns. Central Washington is also second in the GNAC and 51st in Division II in punt returns, averaging 8.4 yards per return.

• Jesse Zalk enters the week ranked second in the GNAC in both kick returns (26.8 yards per return) and punt returns (8.4 per return). His 149 combined kick return yards ranks him eighth in Division II. Zalk’s ledger included a 47-yard return at West Texas A&M, which is the longest in the GNAC thus far.

• Central Washington held CSU-Pueblo well on the pass. The Wildcats’ 115 yards of passing offense allowed currently ranks 15th in Division II. The Wildcats also allowed just 15 first downs in the game, ranking 31st in the nation.

• DeJon Coleman did most of the damage for Dixie State on offense. The senior finished with 192 all-purpose, the second best total in the GNAC last week. He had 62 rushing yards on 12 carries and also 130 yards on five kick returns.

• Quarterback Blake Berney made the most of his debut for Dixie State, entering the game for Trevor Rea. While Berney was just 3 for 10 passing, his 95 yards rushing led the Red Storm. His 114 yards of total offense currently ranks seventh in the GNAC. Rea finishes 13 of 23 for the Red Storm for 102 yards.

• Freshman defensive back Kahani Smith finished with two tackles for loss in his first collegiate game, tying him for first in the GNAC. Sophomore defensive back Colton Olson led the Red Storm defense with nine tackles.

• At Thursday’s game, Dixie State will have “Military & First Responders Appreciation Night.” Fans who show thier milirary of first responder identification will receive up to five complimentary general admission tickets to the game.

• This is Dixie State’s final season as a GNAC football member. The Red Storm will move to the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) for the 2016 season.

• The Lumberjacks received a big leg up on the rest of the conference with their 29-20 GNAC win over Western Oregon on Saturday. It is the last GNAC-counting contest until Azusa Pacific and Dixie State square off on Sept. 26.

• Ja’Quan Gardner posted the first 200-plus yard rushing performance of his career, finishing with 201 yards on 33 carries in the win over Western Oregon. He enters the week ranked fifth in Division II He is averaging 6.1 yards per carry. Gardner also leads the GNAC in total offense with 208 yards.

• Junior wide receiver Chase Krivashei enters the week ranked second in the GNAC and 35th in Division II with seven receptions per game. He finished the Western Oregon game with 63 yards on seven catches. His two receiving touchdowns ranks fifth in Division II and his 12 points per game is 27th in Division II.

• Humboldt State enters their Saturday non-conference contest at Azusa Pacific leading the GNAC in scoring offense (29 points per game) and rushing offense (210 yards per game). The Lumberjacks rank 41st in Division II in rushing offense.

• Senior defensive end Cody Heinebrecht enters the week ranked second in Division II in forced dumbles, fourth in fumbles recovered and 11th in interceptions. Heinebrecht earned GNAC Defensive Player of the Week accolades for his two takeaways against Western Oregon, one of which set up an early Lumberjacks’ touchdown.

• Humboldt State is one of two GNAC teams who will play just four games at home in 2015 (Simon Fraser is the other). After their Sept. 19 non-conference game against Dixie State, the Lumberbacks will play only two of their remaining seven games at the Redwood Bowl.

• Humboldt State is once again represented in the NFL as center Taylor Boggs made the Detroit Lions’ roster for the third season. Boggs has played in five NFL games, including four in his sophomore season. He is currently No. 2 on the depth chart at right guard. Boggs is one of three Division II players on the Lions’ 53-man roster.

• The Clan was the only GNAC squad not to play during week one. Simon Fraser will open the season at Western Oregon in a non-conference game on Saturday.

• Simon Fraser is led by their third head coach in as many years. Kelly Bates took over the program this spring after a longtime playing and coaching career in the Canadian Football League. Before his arrival in Burnaby, Bates was a position coach and Canadian draft coordinator with the B.C.Lions.

• Linebacker Jordan Herdman returns for his third season with the Clan. The 2014 GNAC Defensive Player of the Year, Herdman set GNAC single season records with 165 tackles and 98 assisted tackles, which included a GNAC single game record 27 tackles against Humboldt State on Nov. 1, 2014.

• Like Humboldt State, Simon Fraser will play just four home games this season. Things balance out better for the Clan, however, with three of their home games coming in the final half of the season.

• Despite dropping a 63-28 offensive shootout to Colorado Mines, the Hardrockers put up some impressive offensive member. South Dakota Mines enters the week leading the GNAC and are ranked 36th in Division II in total offense, averaging 474 yards per game.

• South Dakota Mines enters the week ranked second in Division II with 34 first downs. Last week’s opponent, Colorado Mines, is first with 38.

• Quarterback Trent McKinney enters the week ranked third in the GNAC and 58th in Division II with an average of 227 yards per game. He is also third in the GNAC in total offense with 240 yards against Colorado Mines. Freshman Jake Sullivan, who entered the game late for the Hardrockers, is 16th in Division II with a .722 completion percentage (13-18-0).

• As a team, South Dakota Mines is ranked second in the GNAC and 21st in passing offense, averaging 332 yards per game. The Hardrockers are also third in rushing offense, averaging 142 yards per game.

• Receiver Marcus Sanchez is tied for third in the GNAC with an average of six receptions per game. Sanchez finished with 91 yards on six receptions.

• Western Oregon lost the opening GNAC counter of the season despite a spirited air attack. The Wolves finished with 368 yards of passing offense. That leads the GNAC and ranks 10th in Division II.

• Senior quarterback Trey Shimabukuro completed 26 of 38 passes for 368 yards and three touchdowns in the loss. He enters the week leading the GNAC in total offense (342 yards), passing yards per game and pass efficiency (170.6). Shimabukuro is ranked ninth in Division II in both passing yards and passing yards per game, 17th in completions per game (26), 25th in pass efficiency and 26th in points responsible for (18).

• Sophomore receiver Paul Revis picked up where he left off for WOU, finishing with 116 receiving yards on six catches. He enters the week ranked third in the GNAC in reciving yards per game and fourth with 161 all-purpose yards, which includes 45 yards on kick returns. Revis enters the week ranked 26th in Division II in receiving yards and 51st in all-purpose yards.

• Defensively, Western Oregon leads the GNAC and 44th in Division II, allowing 316 yards per game.

• On special teams, the Wolves rank second in the GNAC and are ranked 31st in Division II with an average of 25.2 yards per kickoff return.

• After hosting Simon Fraser this weekend, Western Oregon will play their next three games on the road, including a Sept. 26 game at Division I-FCS Portland State (who upset Washington State in Pullman last Saturday). The Wolves are the only team in the GNAC without a bye week, competing all 11 weeks.

• Tyrell Williams, a First Team All-GNAC selection at wide receiver, will represent the Wolves in the NFL. Williams made the San Diego Chargers’ 53-man roster. Williams had 10 catches during the preseason for 137 yards, including a wild 63-yard touchdown catch that made a name for Williams on social media.

• This weekend, South Dakota Mines will host Black Hills State for the 130th edition of “The Black Hills Brawl - The Battle for the Homestake Trophy.” The rivalry is the longest between two Division II schools and the third longest in college football. The Hardrockers lead the series 60-58-11, but lost last season 42-30. The game will be available online nationally on ESPN3 as part of their Division II Game of the Week series.

• This is South Dakota Mines’ final season in the GNAC. The Hardrockers will join the RMAC for the 2016 season.