Lumberjacks defense faces challenge in Weber State

Updated: October 3, 2003, 3:33 AM ET

OGDEN, Utah -- Northern Arizona's defense, which has been downright stingy this season, gets its acid test this weekend against Weber State.

The Lumberjacks have allowed just 44 points in four games, and 34 came in NAU's loss at Arizona State, a Division I school. NAU (3-1, 1-0 Big Sky) has outscored its I-AA peers 91-10.

"We've been playing great," linebacker Ian Gunderman said. "We can still be better though. I'm happy with how we're playing right now, but I'm not satisfied yet."

The Lumberjacks have excelled against varied offenses, too.

Against Portland State, they shut down a high-powered passing attack. Then they went up against the strong option offense of Cal Poly and held that to 91 yards rushing on 31 carries.

That helped NAU to lead the Big Sky in rushing defense, allowing just 70.2 yards per game.

WSU (4-1, 1-0) will be the most balanced team the Lumberjacks have faced. Led by running back Nick Chournos and receiver Justin DeFour, the Wildcats have rolled up 142 points so far, tops in the Big Sky.

Last week, the Wildcats beat Eastern Washington to snap a 13-game road losing streak. Chournos was the star, rushing for 196 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries.

"Their big backs are capable of softening defenses in one-on-one situations," NAU coach Jerome Souers said. "When you look at their offense vs. our defense, it's kind of big brawn vs. our quickness. We'll see how those matchups play out."

NAU and WSU were expected to finish near the conference basement, but have played their way into a meaningful contest midway through the season.

The success of the Wildcats, which was 3-8 each of the last two years, comes as no surprise to Souers.

"They have a lot of momentum going in their program right now," he said. "I think there are similarities in both programs. Not a lot of people think a lot of us, but I've known (coach) Jerry Graybeal for 20 years. He's a quality coach, and it was just a matter of time before he got those players and that program going in the right direction."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index