FLAGSTAFF, ARIZ. -- The USD Toreros knocked off the No. 25 ranked NAU Lumberjacks 41-10 in first round action of the 2017 NCAA Division I FCS Playoffs. It is USD's 9th straight win and improves their season record to 10-2. It also marks the second straight season the Toreros won their first round playoff match-up. For the second straight year USD will head to Fargo, North Dakota to take on the No. 2 seed North Dakota State Bison (10-1) in a 12:30 p.m. (Pacific) contest.
"We prepare every week to play sixty minutes of football and you can't ask any more than what these guys did today," said head coach Dale Lindsey. "Our goal every week is to be as physical as we can be for sixty minutes, establish the running game which helps with our passing game, and defensively out-hit you and not give up the explosive play. If we can do that we feel we have a good chance to win the game."
In the first quarter the Toreros got on the scoreboard first with Patrick Murray converting on a 24-yard field goal at the 7:08 mark that closed out a 9-play, 48-yard drive. The Torero defense shut down NAU's first three possessions of the game. Some key defensive plays in the opening quarter came from Kim Mahoney (big tackle for loss), Kishan Patel (pass breakup) and Aaron Laut (sack). The Toreros extended Anthony Lawrence with 1:38 to go on a third-and-five play. The first quarter ended with Jonathan Petersen recording his 40th career sack that pushed the Lumberjacks back to their 4-yard line and forced them into another punt.
-- FCS Football (@NCAA_FCS) November 26, 2017
Justin Priest provided the catch of the year with a one-handed grab in the end zone to put USD up, 10-0 in the first quarter.
Following the punt the Toreros took over on NAU's 35-yard line. Facing a 4th-and-one from the 26-yard line, Lawrence escaped a Lumberjack tackler and found a wide open Ross Dwelley free for his ninth touchdown of the season to make it 17-0 with 13:41 to go in the first half. NAU's hurry-up offense started clicking on their fifth possession. Quarterback Case Cookus completed five straight passes before breaking loose for a 32-yard down to the San Diego 6-yard line. On his next play he connected with Terell Brown for a touchdown to pull the Jacks' within 17-7. The drive was 82 yards over six plays. Petersen's second sack, this time a strip-sack, allowed Jake Wittwer to recover the ball on the NAU 14-yard line. Following an incomplete pass attempt, Emilio Martinez busted up the middle for a 14-yard touchdown to increase USD's lead to 24-7. NAU's last possession of the half would be an 11-play, 65-yard drive with Griffin Roehler connecting on a 27-yard field goal that would make it 24-10 heading into the halftime break.
In the second half David Tolbert intercepted NAU's second pass from their first possession and returned it 24 yards. USD would extend their lead to 27-10 with a 27-yard field goal by Patrick Murray. The Torero defense forced another three-and-out and San Diego answered with a 7-play, 66-yard drive that was finished off with a 1-yard touchdown burst from fullback Zach Nelson. Nelson's score was set up by a 42-yard pass from Lawrence to Priest and put the Toreros ahead 34-10. NAU was in San Diego territory and closing in on the goal line when the defense came up big again. Colton Giorgi forced a Cory Young fumble on their own 3-yard line and Jonathan Petersen pounced on it with 6:19 to go. The third quarter would close out with the score 34-10.
Early in the fourth quarter the Toreros put the game away with 9:24 to go when Lawrence connected with Dwelley for a 13-yard touchdown that capped off a 9-play, 74-yard drive to extend USD's lead to a commanding 41-10.
For the game USD totaled 439 yards of offense while the Torero defense limited the Jacks' to 238 yards. Anthony Lawrence completed 16-28 passes for 228 yards and 3 scores. His top targets were TE Ross Dwelley (6 for 74 yards, 2 TDs) and Justin Priest (5 for 93 yards, 1 TD). Freshman RB Emilio Martinez paced the ground attack with 117 yards and 1 score on 20 carries. Joseph Binda chipped in with 67 yards on 17 carries. Defensively the Colton Giorgi had a team-high 7 stops, followed by Ray Clark (6) and Marcus Vaivao (6). Defensive end Jonathan Petersen added two more sacks to move his career total to 41. He needs two more to become the all-time leader in FCS history with 43. Kicker Patrick Murray was solid with field goals from 24 and 27 yards.
Jonathan Petersen: "That was the best 11-man effort I have been a part of in my four years here. From the top down, to the corners to the D-line. Everyone played really well. We knew our offense was going to be able to put up points. We knew if we could hold them under 20 points that we would have a good shot of winning, and that is what we did."
Justin Priest: "The offense played well today. We did leave some points on the field, but we'll get that corrected. Overall I feel we really set the tone. We completed balls we need to complete and we really ran the ball well."
Anthony Lawrence: "What really helped us out was our run game in the first half. We ran the ball incredibly well and the O-line was opening up holes and the running backs were making people miss. That really set up our passing game and we were able to take more chances in the second half."
Dale Lindsey looking to North Dakota State: "We have great respect for North Dakota State. Their program has been at the pinnacle of FCS football for the last five or six years and they gave us a nice little whipping last year. We look forward to playing them again. We feel like we didn't play our best last year, but we are going to give them our best shot. That is all we can ask these guys to do. I don't think in my five years here that our guys have ever felt they didn't give it their best when walking off the field at the end of the game."
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