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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Amelia Kashian
Amelia Kashian
Features Editor

Being passionate is one of the best parts of being human, and I am glad that writing has helped me recognize that. I have been writing stories since I was a little girl, and over...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

NMU CARES — President Brock Tessman shares his feelings on the universitys new CARE Team. Photo Courtesy of Northern Michigan University
Letter to the Editor — Our New CARE Team
Brock TessmanFebruary 23, 2024

By land, by air, by ‘D’

Northern football was looking to make an opening season statement Saturday when the ‘Cats defeated Northwood University 30-7.

Early in the game, it was the Wildcat defense that made the statement.

“I think we all stepped up as a whole team; we’ve been breaking it down, ‘GLIAC champs,’ all camp long and made statements before the game that this was step one,” senior safety Alex Grignon said. “We’ve got a long season, and each game is going to be one step at a time. We wanted to send a message from everyone from the starters to the bench players.”

In Northwood’s first possession of the game, NMU sophomore safety Andrew Strobel picked off Northwood quarterback Spencer Klukowski less than three minutes in. Strobel returned the pick into NMU territory.

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“I think that was one of the biggest plays. That just set our defense off,” junior linebacker Zach Gauthier said. “It gave our defense all the confidence we could get.”

After a one-yard touchdown run by junior running back Mark Bossuah and a 35-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Anthony Leandri, the Wildcats headed into halftime up 10-0.

“To start fast was important, because it’s the first game of the year,” head coach Bernie Anderson said. “Scoring that first touchdown and that field goal (was big).

“Even bigger than that, though, we played defense early,” he added.

Anderson is now 2-1 in opening games since coming to NMU in 2006.

In the second half, junior quarterback Ben Hempel began to show why he was highly recruited out of high school. After a one-yard touchdown run by Bossuah, Hempel would connect with senior receivers Dan Elmore, on a 37-yard strike, and Fred Wells, on a 46-yard pass. The touchdowns put NMU up 30-0.

“Ben did exactly what we asked him to do,” Anderson said. “We asked him to go in there, take command of the huddle and get command of the offense and don’t look to make the big play.

“For it being his first start and to execute for four quarters, I think he did a great job,” Anderson added.

Hempel finished the game 14-19 passing for 282 yards and two scores. Bossuah led the attack on the ground, taking the ball 14 times for 132 yards and two touchdowns. Junior wideout Zach Nichols led all receivers with six catches for 75 yards.

Backup freshman running back Maurice Williams carried the ball 17 times for 106 yards.

“I think you have to have two running backs in this league, and I think we have two,” Anderson said of Williams’ performance.

Northern finished the day with a total of 561 yards of offense, 298 through the air and 263 on the ground.

The Wildcat defense proved strongest, though, holding a powerful Northwood offense to 296 total yards.

NMU’s defense is led by a trio of upper-classmen in Gauthier, Grignon and junior linebacker Nathan Yelk. On Saturday, a group of youngsters and newcomers contributed as well. According to Gauthier, much of the defensive success can be credited to new defensive coordinator Randy Awrey and the defensive scheme he brought in during the off-season.

“It’s just a totally different game with that defense out there,” Gauthier said. “Things are a lot easier, everything’s coming a lot easier and we’re able to have fun and just play football. Last year, we were thinking too hard and we were trying to do assignment football, and it just wasn’t working.”

The linebackers and defensive line combined for five stops behind the line of scrimmage, to go along with three sacks. Last season, the Wildcats defense recorded a total of 11 sacks, ranking last in the conference.

Accounting for two of the three sacks was junior outside linebacker Scott Avery. Avery moved from defensive lineman to linebacker in the offseason.

“It was pretty easy to transition (to linebacker),” Avery said. “It’s not that much different. The only things I really had to learn were pass drops, but it’s nice to get freed up on the outside a little bit.”

The NMU defensive secondary, with two starting sophomores and a redshirt freshman, picked up two interceptions and gave up merely 81 yards through the air.

“They played very well. And I wasn’t sure, being they’re young and it was their first game,” Yelk said of the secondary.

Strobel came away with the first interception and the second pick came in the third, courtesy of Grignon. One player who didn’t come away with a pick but made an impact was redshirt freshman Marcus Tribble, who in his first collegiate start, made six tackles, broke up one pass and recovered a fumble.

“Coach Awrey put us in the right position to make some plays, and that’s what we did,” Tribble said. “I just went out there and had fun.”

The Wildcat team will now need to prove they can win consistently. The first chance the ‘Cats get is when they travel to Tiffin University (0-2, 0-1) this weekend for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff on Saturday.

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