The Humboldt State football team experienced a major turnaround during the 2014 season.
Central Valley High School graduate Ja'Quan Gardner helped lead the Lumberjacks to an 8-2 overall record and tie for second place in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference standings (4-2) with Central Washington (7-4, 4-2) and Western Oregon (6-5, 4-2).
Humboldt State dropped all 11 of its games in 2013.
"There's nothing to be disappointed about," said Ja'Quan, a 5-foot-7 175-pound running back, whose team failed to qualify for postseason play despite winning eight of its 10 games. "This is possibly the biggest turnaround in college football. It's great to be a part of it."
Gardner, a true freshman, was selected to the GNAC Second Team on Nov. 19.
"I was pretty shocked," he said. "I didn't expect to get that."
Ja'Quan ranked second on the team in rushing yards (607), touchdowns (8) and carries (88).
He averaged a team-leading 6.9 yards per carry.
Gardner caught eight passes for 125 yards and one TD.
He totaled 193 yards on six kickoff returns.
Gardner missed two-and-half games with a thigh contusion.
"When I first got it, it wasn't that bad," Gardner said. "But it lingered and got worse. It was a learning process. It was mentally challenging."
Humboldt State averaged a conference-best 38.8 points per game.
"We had talent and great team chemistry," Gardner said. "We had a lot of fun. We played hard every game. We got a lot of support on campus and from the community. I didn't expect it to be like that."
Humboldt State and GNAC-champion Azuza Pacific (10-1, 6-0) both didn't receive bids to the NCAA Division-II Football Championships.
The Lumberjacks and Cougars had winning percentages of .800 and .900, respectively.
"We didn't get in either," Gardner said. "I was pretty shocked. That just shows you have to win games. We had two losses. The second loss hurt us."
Gardner split carries with senior Nick Ricciardulli (210-1,061-9) and freshman Richard Doctor (67-349-6) during his first season with the Lumberjacks.
Ricciardulli, who suffered a season-ending injury two games into his junior campaign, was selected to the GNAC First Team this season.
"We had a great rotation," Gardner said. "We had fun the whole season. We helped each other out. I just wanted to come in and get playing time."
Ja'Quan will be counted upon more heavily in 2015.
"I'm on break from school right now," Gardner said. "I haven't set any individual goals for next year. We're just going to try to get wins and win the conference championship. I'm pretty sure we'll all get carries."
Ja'Quan will stay busy during the offseason.
"We have a great strength and conditioning coach," he said. "I'll be in the weight room a lot. I think I'm going to do yoga."