TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -Willie Tuitama threw a career-high five touchdown passes, one shy of the school record, and Antoine Cason went 70 yards for a score on the second punt return of his career to lead Arizona to a 45-24 victory over Northern Arizona on Saturday night.
Arizona (1-1) led only 14-3 at the half but the spread offense of new coordinator Sonny Dykes, stifled in last week's 20-7 loss at BYU, came alive when Tuitama threw three TD passes in a 24-point third quarter against the Lumberjacks of the Big Sky Conference.
Northern Arizona (1-1) plays in what used to be called NCAA Division I-AA and now is known as the Championship Subdivision.
It was NAU's 16th consecutive loss to a Division I-A, or Bowl Subdivision, team.
Tuitama had scoring passes of 20, 34, 4, 26 and 27 yards - to five receivers. He completed 23 of 44 for 283 yards. His only interception, in the third quarter, set up a 5-yard touchdown run by NAU's Lance Kriesien.
Trailing 38-10, the Lumberjacks scored twice in a 45-second span early in the fourth quarter. After Kriesien ran 2 yards for a score on the quarter's opening play, the Lumberjacks skidded the subsequent kickoff down the middle of the field. NAU recovered, and Lionel Scott ran 13 yards for a score to cut the lead to 38-24 with 14:07 left.
Tuitama put Arizona back in control, throwing 20 yards to a diving Delashaun Dean on the final play of the night for the junior quarterback.
On their first possession, the Wildcats went 69 yards in 10 plays, capped by Tuitama's 20-yard touchdown pass over the middle to Mike Thomas. Tuitama was 5-of-7 for 59 yards on the drive.
Cason took Keenye Crier's punt at the Arizona 30, broke a tackle as he crossed the field, then followed a blocker down the right sideline. Cason held the ball out in his left hand and stared back at the NAU players over the final few yards before he crossed the goal line.
The score made it 14-0 with 10:07 left in the half.
After a 43-yard field goal by the Lumberjacks' Robbie Dehaze made it 14-3, Arizona drove from its 47 to the Northern Arizona 2 in the final minutes of the half, but on fourth-and-1, Xavier Smith was stopped inches short of the first down.
Tuitama, who had never thrown more than two touchdown passes in a game, came out flinging in the second half. He was 11-of-20 for 160 yards in the third quarter, including TD passes of 34 yards to Terrell Turner, 4 yards to Anthony Johnson and 26 yards to big freshman tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Next week, Northern Arizona plays at Appalachian State, the team that stunned Michigan in its season opener.