Maybe what the Cal State Northridge football coaches said about Marcus Brady was right after all. The youngster could be an impact college quarterback.
He already might be.
The redshirt freshman completed 20 of 26 attempts for 236 yards and three touchdowns, leading the Matadors over Northern Arizona, 41-10, in front of 7,640 at the Walkup Skydome on Saturday night.
"He's a difference-maker and he made a difference tonight," Northridge Coach Ron Ponciano said.
Thus, Northridge (1-1, 1-0) opened Big Sky Conference play with a victory for the first time since becoming a member in 1996. The Matadors handled Northern Arizona (2-1, 0-1) for the second consecutive year and won at Flagstaff for the first time since 1968, the first contest in the 12-game series.
The Lumberjacks, ranked No. 13 in one poll, were the highest-ranked opponent Northridge has defeated in Division I-AA.
Ponciano, in his first season with the Matadors, defended all along the decision to start Brady ahead of junior Josh Fiske and two others. Brady was manhandled in a 26-13 loss at Boise State on Sept. 5, being sacked five times and harassed constantly.
But against Northern Arizona, Brady's athleticism showed plainly, running for big gains on option plays and firing the ball with authority.
He was perhaps at his best in Northridge's first possession of the third quarter, after Northern Arizona pulled to within 13-10. He zig-zagged his way for 50 yards on a first and 10 from the Matador 30 and capped the 80-yard drive with a beautiful 12-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Arnold for a 20-10 lead with 5:33 to play in the quarter.
Brady ran right and fired across his body to Arnold, who beat cornerback Cedric Jones on the left side of the end zone.
"I just felt comfortable all night and the line was opening up holes," Brady said. "Everybody knows now we have a good team."
The Lumberjacks know. Northridge turned the game into a rout with a 21-0 outburst in the fourth quarter, scoring on a seven-yard pass from Brady to Anthony Ramos, a team-record 93-yard fumble return by cornerback Chazz Moore and Melvin Blue's two-yard run.
Northridge outgained the Lumberjacks, 408 yards to 277.
"We just came out determined to stop the run and our [defensive backs] were determined to stop the fade [passes]," Northridge linebacker Shayne Blakey said.
Northern Arizona played without junior quarterback Travis Brown, out with an injured elbow. Brown, who has passed for more than 7,000 career yards, watched from the sideline as his replacement, sophomore Clay Brown (no relation), passed for only 78 yards and one score.
After the teams traded field goals in the first quarter, Northridge scoring first on a 23-yarder by Manny Marquez and Northern Arizona following suit on one from 46 yards by Mike Goldstein, the Matadors cracked the end zone midway through the second quarter.
Northridge marched 76 yards on 13 plays, Brady connecting with Mike Ogas on a 13-yard touchdown pass for a 10-3 lead.