With the Northern Arizona offense sputtering, former Burbank High School standout Lucky Dozier knew he had to do something to give his team momentum in Saturday night's nonconference football game against UC Davis.
Dozier, born and raised in Sacramento, had just the remedy. He intercepted a pass from Aggies quarterback Jimmy Laughrea and returned it 78 yards for a touchdown that gave the Lumberjacks the lead for good in a 21-10 win.
Marcus Alford sealed the win late in the fourth quarter with a 47-yard interception return for another score.
Dozier estimated he had 60 friends and family in the Aggie Stadium stands. It was his first game back in the area after attending Grambling State for a season, and then College of San Mateo before moving to Flagstaff, Ariz.
Dozier grabbed Laughrea's overthrow at the Lumberjacks' 22-yard line, considered the near sideline for his return but cut back into the middle. He freed himself at midfield, and then outran his pursuers up the far sideline to change the momentum.
"We work on our (interception) returns all the time," Dozier said. "We practice getting to the sideline, look to see how many skill players are left and if they're all bunched up we run to where the offensive linemen are."
UC Davis is 0-3 for the first time since 1965.
The Lumberjacks (1-1) had just 191 yards of offense 51 in the second half and from the first quarter on were forced to punt on every possession except for the final seconds when quarterback Kyren Poe took a knee twice. It was the first time since 2006 the Aggies held a team to under 200 offensive yards.
"(UC Davis) played well on defense as we knew they would," NAU head coach Jerome Souers said. "But I'm proud of our defense and they made huge plays when we needed them."
Souers said he made Dozier one of the team captains knowing he would have a lot of support in the stands. Dozier was first-team All Big Sky Conference last season, and was the Lumberjacks' Defensive Player of the Year. In last season's 21-7 win over UC Davis in Flagstaff, Dozier had a fumble recovery.
"I had to make a play tonight; we had to make a play as a defensive unit," Dozier said. "We had to take advantage because we were letting too many of those chances get away."
With his team trailing 10-7 six minutes into the fourth quarter, Dozier got the perfect angle on Laughrea's overthrow. Dozier waited for his teammates to start the convoy and was off.
Laughrea, a former Rocklin High standout, finished 16 of 33 for 154 yards and scored on a nice 23-yard scramble midway through the second quarter.
Laughrea's 40-yard completion to wide receiver Tom Hemmingsen set up a 25-yard Brady Stuart field goal early in the third quarter. But Laughrea wanted two of his 33 attempts back.
"The defense did their job," Laughrea said. "We have to work harder on offense and minimize mistakes and help our defense."
UC Davis hosts Portland State next Saturday.