NMU football drops season opener

kyle.whitney and kyle.whitney

The NMU football team-on the road for the 2007 season opener against the Indianapolis Greyhounds-failed to convert on a two-point conversion in the final minute of Saturday’s game, coming just two points short in a heart-wrenching 24-22 loss.

“It’s a loss and every loss, whether it’s by one point or 30 points, feels pretty much the same,” NMU head coach Bernie Anderson said. “It is not a good feeling.”

After receiving the opening kickoff, the Wildcats (0-1 GLIAC, 0-1 overall) started the day off in strong fashion, driving 63 yards in 6:30.

The 12-play drive concluded with a 9-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Buddy Rivera to sophomore wide receiver Zach Nichols and NMU jumped out in front, 7-0.

Rivera finished the day with 304 yards and two touchdowns on 29-of-44 passing, while Nichols collected 45 yards and two scores on four receptions.

Also at the receiving end of a barrage of Rivera passes was senior wide receiver Fred Wells, who snagged 11 passes for 124 yards on Saturday. The offense’s production came as no surprise to the veteran.

“As a receiving corps, we have pride in what we do, so we always look to make big plays and whatnot,” Wells said. “It’s just expected of us.”

Some expectations, however, aren’t always realized. When sophomore NMU running back Mark Bossuah, who tallied 34 yards and one touchdown in the game, scored on a 1-yard run to pull the ‘Cats within one (17-16) with just 14:15 left in regulation, sophomore kicker Jon Laue missed the game-tying extra point.

“We have to be able to kick the ball, too,” Anderson said. “When you miss an extra point and when you miss a field goal, that’s points off the board.”

Laue was 1-for-2 on field goals, nailing a 32-yard try and missing a 47-yard attempt at the end of the first half.

“It was a close game and it could have gone either way,” Wells said. “It was a game separated by like one or two plays and they didn’t go our way.”

Holding a one point lead, the Greyhounds (1-0, 1-0) stormed down field and tacked on another score, this time with an 8-yard run by junior running back Eric Wright with 5:28 left in the final quarter.

Then, with just 4:26 remaining, and trailing 24-16, the Wildcats took possession on their own 18-yard line. Rivera proceeded to lead the ‘Cats on an 11-play, 82-yard march, which was capped by a 23-yard scoring toss to Nichols, his second of the day.

After the failed two-point conversion, NMU recovered the onside kick at their own 46 yard line and Rivera threw four passes-three incomplete-as the Wildcats went four-and-out to end the game.

In retrospect, it may not have hurt the ‘Cats to show a bit more aggression, Anderson said.

“I thought we played conservatively and instead of making things happen, we looked to see if they were going to happen,” he said. “I think it’s a difference in confidence, believing and determination. We were right where we wanted to be-to win on the road is a great thing-and we came up short.”

As the Wildcats try to improve on Saturday’s performance, they must prepare for their 2007 home opener against the Hillsdale Chargers (1-0, 1-0). Also playing last Saturday, the Chargers downed the Gannon Knights (0-1, 0-1), 59-3.

The Wildcats will try to start off the home half of their schedule on a positive note after going just 2-3 in the Superior Dome last season.

“It’s huge,” Nichols said of the first home game. “You always want to win at home and it’s important to protect your home field.”

In attempting to protect their home turf, the ‘Cats know that they will need to tweak their game a bit.

“I think we’re going to play with a little bit more determination and a little bit more confidence,” Anderson said. “If we let it all hang out and come up short, then so be it. If we don’t, then we can only blame ourselves. This past week, we could only blame ourselves.”

The game will take place at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 8 in the Superior Dome, and a pre-game gathering will be held to celebrate the beginning of the fall sports season. The NMU Fall Sports Kickoff begins at 1:30 p.m. in front of the Dome and there will be food and refreshments available.