A 21-point comeback by the Northern Michigan football team proved to be too little too late as the team dropped its first game of the season 23-21 to Northwood University on Saturday Sept. 5.
Trailing 14-0 at halftime, NMU (0-1, 0-1 GLIAC) would score 21 second-half points to take the lead 21-20 with 3:35 left in the game. Northwood (1-0, 1-0 GLIAC) took the lead right back as junior kicker Pat Sijan connected on what would be the game-winning field goal from 42 yards out with 14 seconds remaining.
“When you lose a disappointing game like that, you better focus on one thing, and that’s the very next game,” NMU head coach Bernie Anderson said. “So you learn from it and put it behind. Now we got one thing to focus on and that’s this week’s game,” he added.
Offensively, the Wildcats were plagued by three lost fumbles
on the afternoon in a complete turnaround of last season’s opening weekend 30-7 blowout win over Northwood in the Superior Dome.
The offense was able to rush for a total of 201 yards, with senior all-conference running back Mark Bossuah totaling 45 yards and one score. Freshman Antonio Wallace gained 79 yards on just five carries and also added a touchdown.
Defensively, the ‘Cats gave up 174 yards on the ground to a run-first Northwood offense, while also only allowing one touchdown on a 25 yard pass play early in the game. Preseason All-American senior linebacker Nathan Yelk totaled 11 tackles with 1.5 for loss. Junior safety Ricky Neaves brought in six tackles to go along with 2.5 for loss.
“It was a team loss and a tough loss, but the positive things were [that] I thought we played with great courage and competed all the way through. Even being down by 17, there was no quit,” Anderson said.
The road loss Saturday marked the seventh straight road loss by the Wildcats. The team has not won away from the Superior
Dome since a 27-23 win over then conference foe Gannon
University in Nov. 2007. Struggling to win on the road is something many on the team have gone through with last week’s end result proving to be no different.
“We had a good crowd behind us, we felt comfortable on the road, it was just dealing with the game,” Anderson said. “You have to be a good football team to win on the road and I thought we did everything but win Saturday, so we’re not far off.”
The team is now 2-14 on the road since Anderson took over in 2006. But for fifth year seniors such as Yelk and Bossuah, the record stretches to a daunting 2-19, a stat all would like to see turn around this season.
“We just have to expect to win and play hard,” Bossuah said. “One thing we need to learn is that no matter how good or bad a team is, just like we’re excited to play at home; it’s the same with other teams.”
The road woes will be put on hold for now as the team welcomes Tiffin University (0-2, 0-1 GLIAC) to the Superior Dome in the Wildcats’ home opener this Saturday, Sept. 12.
Last season the Wildcats and Dragons went down to the wire in a four overtime game in which Tiffin walked away victorious
34-28 in the first meeting between the two. Payback on their home turf is something many players are looking forward
“It’s the first home game of the year so everyone’s excited to play,” Bossuah said, “Also with what happened to us last year, losing in quadruple overtime, most guys on the team are pretty excited to play them.”
Bossuah accounted for 135 of the Wildcats 408 total offensive yards and the offense may have little problem moving the ball once again on a Tiffin defense that has given up 557 yards rushing just two games into the season.
“Last week we out rushed a [run] option team and now we’re playing a team that hasn’t been able to stop the run, so we’re definitely looking forward to that,” Bossuah said. “We definitely feel like we have the players in our backfield and offensive line to exploit that weakness.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the ‘Cats will go from a run oriented team in Northwood to a much more pass prone team in Tiffin. The Dragons have passed the ball 71 times in their first two games. Switching tempo from last week to this weekend will be a challenge.
“It’s a complete switch from all-run to all-pass as a primary emphasis of what you need to stop, and that’s challenging a little bit to get the consistency,” Anderson said.
However the Wildcats decide to prepare, fans should expect the team to be ready after the sour opening loss.
“There’s some excitement to that part to just play another game and get that bad taste out of your mouth,” Anderson said.
Kickoff will be at 4 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on 100.3 FM.