Football program looks to the future


With the final game of 2008 behind them, NMU football players must now look toward the future, and try to improve on a disappointing 2-8 campaign.

For the second consecutive season, the Wildcats finish in ninth place out of 12 teams in the GLIAC.

The team will now have plenty of time to prepare in the offseason, and according to head coach Bernie Anderson, the team will have to take advantage of this offseason for the upcoming year.

“We didn’t get in condition enough throughout the summer to go into the season in good shape (this year),” head coach Bernie Anderson said. “When you’re not in good shape going into a season, there’s nothing else you can do about it.”

The team started strong, with a 30-7 home win over Northwood, then went on a six-game losing streak until its Oct. 25 matchup with the University of Findlay, when the ‘Cats won 29-21.

Like Anderson, junior running back Mark Bossuah felt that conditioning should improve in the offseason, especially during the summer, when players are given the option to stay in Marquette and work with teammates.

“You definitely want starters to stay up for the summer to condition before the season. It’s a big thing for the offseason,” Bossuah said.

With the help of 20 players entering their senior seasons, and 17-of-22 starters returning, leadership is one area the ‘Cats will be strong in for 2009.

Returning offensively will be red-shirt freshman quarterback Carter Kopach who finished the season 124-of-225 passing for 1190 yards, while throwing nine touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

“There’s no question, and he’d be the first to admit it, that there is a learning curve with a freshman quarterback,” Anderson said.

Also returning is junior quarterback Ben Hempel, who started the season at signal-caller. Hempel played in three games before injury, throwing for 593 yards, with six touchdowns and one interception.

The strength of the Wildcat offense, though, is in the backfield, led by Bossuah.

Hampered by injuries, he rushed for 660 yards in six games and scored five touchdowns.

For the team to have success in the 2009 season, Bossuah will need to once again become the main focal point of the offense.

Along the offensive line, Jack Rustman, Nick Owens, and Jon Otto all return as seniors who helped pave the way for nearly 2,000 yards rushing this season.

“You have to give props and credit to the offensive line, it should again be a high point for us next season,” Bossuah said.

There will be 10-of-11 defensive starters returning next season.

“We had a young defense with a new system and that was a problem area, and now they’ll have a second year in the system,” Anderson said.

One main contributor coming back will be junior linebacker Nathan Yelk, who had 98 tackles in only eight games. He ranked second in the conference in tackles per game, with 12.

“Hopefully in the offseason of training and spring football and camp, we can get comfortable in what we’re doing, so we can play football and not think about it,” he said.

Juniors Zach Gauthier, Scott Avery, and Mike Boren join Yelk as senior linebackers in 2009.

“I just try to be the glue of the defense and not let one position get down on themselves or point fingers. We’re a unit, we do it together,” Yelk said

“And I think the athleticism and speed to go along with the leadership should provide good things next season,” he added.

Strong leadership remains on the Wildcats roster, and it will be up to those new seniors to bring this team where it wants to be next season, Anderson said.

“It’s not always who you lose, as it is who’s coming back,” Anderson said.