It may be one of the most impressive and unusual statistics in college football this season.
Northern Arizona, which plays at Sacramento State on Saturday, has scored more touchdowns on defense than offense.
That's a little surprising considering the No. 19 Lumberjacks (3-2, 1-1) have one of the best running backs to ever play in the Big Sky Conference in senior All-American Zach Bauman.
Northern Arizona has turned nine of its forced turnovers into six touchdowns, including Austin Hasquet's 37-yard interception return for a score in a 36-7 conference loss at Montana State last week.
The Lumberjacks have five offensive touchdowns.
Northern Arizona leads the Big Sky in total defense (326.4 yards) and pass defense (164 yards) and has allowed four passing touchdowns.
The defense is anchored by 2012 All-Big Sky Conference first-team selections Lucky Dozier (Burbank High), a strong safety, and Anders Battle, a cornerback.
Dozier, an All-American preseason pick, is second on the team in tackles with 32, and his 78-yard, fourth-quarter interception return for a touchdown helped beat UC Davis 21-10 earlier this season.
The Lumberjacks will go against a Sac State team (3-3, 2-0) that is playing well offensively and off to its best start ever in Big Sky competition.
Sac State quarterback Garrett Safron, this week's Big Sky Offensive Player of the Week after his three-touchdown performance in a 37-21 win over Northern Colorado, has thrown for 16 touchdowns all in the past four games this season. He ranks third nationally in the FCS in touchdown passes.
Wide receiver DeAndre Carter has 10 touchdown catches and is tied for the FCS national lead with Murray State's Walter Powell.
"If we can stay out of second-and-long and third-and-long, then we give ourselves a chance," Sac State coach Marshall Sperbeck said of the expected chess match against Northern Arizona's defense. "We've got to be smart with the football and not give them opportunities to get their hands on it."
That's the kind of performance the Hornets had against Northern Colorado.
Even with reserve running backs Jordan Robinson and Brandon Kellermann carrying the ball for the first time in their college careers because of injuries, Sac State didn't have a turnover and controlled the ball for 13 more minutes than the Bears. The Hornets had 513 total yards, including 201 rushing.
Flagging improvement In its first four games, Sac State was whistled for 34 penalties totaling 271 yards.
In their last two games, both in Big Sky play, the Hornets have had five penalties for 35 yards, including one for 5 yards (ineligible man downfield) against Northern Colorado. That tied the school single-game record during the Division I-AA/FCS era, matching the total against Cal State Northridge in 1994.
"It always helps you out when you are not giving up free yards," Sperbeck said. "We've talked a lot about being disciplined, being smart."
The turning point may have been the Hornets' last nonconference game at home against Southern Utah. The Thunderbirds drove 98 yards, thanks partly to three major penalties, to score the tying touchdown in regulation before beating the Hornets 24-21 in overtime.
"I think after that game our kids said to themselves, 'We're better than this,' and made the decision to fix it," Sperbeck said.
Run, Zach, run Bauman (422 rushing yards this season) is eighth in Big Sky career rushing with 4,098 yards and is trying to become just the ninth FCS player to record 1,000-yard rushing seasons in all four years of his career.
The last time Sac State and Northern Arizona met in 2011, Bauman rushed for a then-career-high 246 yards in a 27-26 win over the Hornets.
Call The Bee's Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.