NMU drops 14-point lead late

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Through four quarters of play in Saturday’s road contest at Ferris State, the Wildcat football team looked as if it would walk away with the victory.

It was in the final seconds of play when that would all change, as NMU watch Ferris State’s Chad Wilson return an interception 75 yards for a touchdown, giving Ferris the 31-24 victory in heartbreak fashion.

The Wildcats now sit at 1-3 overall on the season and 1-3 in the GLIAC. It was the third loss of the year where the Wildcats had let a halftime lead slip in the second half, which is something head coach Bernie Anderson would like to change.

“We’re obviously very competitive in every football game,” Anderson said. “We’ve had four games where we’ve had a lead at halftime so we just need to start closing the door a little bit, and I think we’re learning to do that.”

The ‘Cats took the early 14-0 lead, much in part to red-shirt freshman quarterback Carter Kopach, as he threw for one score and found the endzone once again on the ground in his first collegiate start.

Unfortunately for the ‘Cats, Ferris would cut the lead to seven points before halftime.

“I thought Carter played his first start much like he played at the end of the two games he was in,” Anderson said. “He’s a poised quarterback who’s confident and comes out and does a great job competing and leading.”

The second half seemed to be leaning in NMU’s favor as the Wildcats led 24-10 in the fourth quarter.

This lead would be enough because, in the next few minutes of the game, Ferris would go on a 14-0 run.

It looked as if both teams would be heading into overtime after a Ferris State punt gave the ball back to NMU with just seconds left on the clock.

Looking to possibly get into field goal range Kopach dropped back to throw the pass that would give the Bulldogs the lead.

The interception was the third of the year for Kopach. It was also the third time this season the team experienced a second half breakdown.

“Everyone just needs to trust each other and do their job,” senior defensive back Alex Grignon said. “We played great for three and a half quarters, and it’s just mental errors that, I don’t want to say cost us the game, but it was just mental errors that was the breakdown in defense.”

Grignon finished the day with five tackles with one for loss. Junior linebacker Zach Gauthier led the defense with 10 tackles and an interception. Kopach finished 21-38 passing, 197 yards one score and one interception.

A breath of ‘Fresh’ air

Kopach wasn’t the only young player who was asked to play older than his age Saturday. Due to a great deal of injuries to veterans, young players saw action and proved to coaches to be more than just a fill in.

Junior starting running back Mark Bossuah was left home on the trip, hampered by a calf injury. Sophomore defensive lineman, Dan Catalano and junior captain linebacker, Nathan Yelk were also held from competition in Saturday’s game, which gave freshmen the opportunity to make plays.

“One second-year freshman and two first year freshmen played extremely well against a very good Ferris State team,” Anderson said. “They continue to progress like that and that just makes us a better football team. But I was really happy with the play of all three of them.”

Filling the void of the injured Yelk, redshirt freshman Eddie Knoblock stepped in making seven tackles with one for loss. Knoblock also showed his maturity on fourth down, breaking up a Ferris State pass.

” I think whenever someone goes down, I hope there’s confidence that I can go in there and fill the spot just as good as they could,” Knoblock said.

Grignon made note of Knoblock’s hard play.

“People are playing older than they are right now,” Grignon said. “Eddie made a couple nice plays, and on a fourth down he had a pass breakup on one of the best players in the conference – which showed his maturity level.”

Injuries can be a part of football are that hard for any team to avoid; how a team overcomes those injuries can prove a lot about.

“We had a lot of guys banged up, including myself,” Bossuah said. “It was definitely a situation where a lot of guys had to step up and had to contribute, and so that was definitely a new experience for them.”

Filling the void of Bossuah, freshman running back Brandon Smith saw action for the first time. Smith rushed for 64 yards on 17 carries, while also scoring a touchdown.

Freshman defensive tackle Matt Forward started his second consecutive game, and recorded eight tackles, with two for loss of yards.

Injuries have been somewhat of a problem in the early half of this season, but players are returning to full health for the Wildcats in what should be the start of good things for this team.

“We had a lot of injuries this last week but our team played real well, and got through adversity, and I think we’re mentally strong enough to get through them,” Grignon said. “Right now we’re getting everyone healthier. I think were on the upswing as far as injuries go, we just got to keep playing hard and keep working hard.”

Coming Home

The Wildcats are back home this week when GLIAC opponent Saginaw Valley State comes to the Superior Dome for the annual Homecoming game.

Saginaw comes is 2-2 in the conference and 2-2 overall. NMU defensive coordinator Randy Awrey faces his old team for the first time, after previously spending the last nine seasons as Saginaw’s head coach.

The Homecoming game serves a higher level of significance to many, as it’s a time when alumni, including former players and coaches, come back.

“We want to come out here and win for the school as much as we want to win for ourselves,” Grignon said.

NMU is looking to beat Saginaw for the first time since its 1999 match up, as the ‘Cats are winless in their last eight meetings.

Last year the Wildcats lost 42-37 in their third game of the season. The NMU offense put 462 total yards on the SVSU defense.

This season redshirt freshman quarterback Carter Kopach will be given the chance to lead the team to victory. Kopach has 422 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions and has rushed for 79 yards and two scores. Bossuah will be healthy and also looked upon to lead the Wildcats offense, rushing for 360 yards and three touchdowns through only three games.

Defensively the Wildcats are led by Grignon and junior linebacker Gauthier, along with junior Yelk.

The Wildcats are looking forward to being back home, and developing a winning attitude in the Superior Dome.

“We need to play well at home we need to execute at home, and finish four quarters at home,” Anderson said. “Winning at home at is very important to this football program at this point in the season.”

“Right now it’s most important we come home and play a very good game at home that’s what’s important,” he added. “If we do, business will take care of itself, we will