Total yards: 316
Total first downs: 20
Total completions: 22
Those are pretty good numbers for a football team on any given Saturday; the average total yards for a GLIAC team is about 352 ypg.
But what’s different with the stats above is that they do not represent the efforts of one GLIAC team.
These stats were the combined totals for the University of Indianapolis Greyhounds and the Northern Michigan University Wildcats from their game last Saturday, Oct. 23. With both teams’ defenses setting the tone of the game, the 6-5 score in favor of the road team was not a surprise.
The top-ranked defense of NMU against the third-ranked defense of UIndy was one of the big storylines going into the game and both units shined. NMU allowed only 19 rushing yards and 146 total yards while Indianapolis held the Wildcats to only 38 passing yards and 170 total yards.
“We all played well,” said defensive back Jacob Lehmann, “Anytime you hold a team to six points, its great.”
Lehmann was the second-leading tackler for the Wildcats with seven total stops. Linebacker Josh Droese was the leading tackler for NMU with nine total tackles. Overall, 17 different defensive players recorded tackles for Northern, as the individual players’ performances combined into a stout defensive front.
“I played with discipline and did my best job every play,” said linebacker John Blessing, who had four tackles and recovered a fumble against the Greyhounds.
Usually in a defensive battle, the offensive side of the ball tends to look subpar, and that was the case this week. The Wildcat offense had numerous lost opportunities to score points, ranging from dropped passes, red zone turnovers and missed field goals despite the low total yards.
“I think we have to execute better as a whole,” said left guard Jason DuMont. “That’s everyone from the quarterbacks and the wide receivers to the tailbacks and the offensive line.”
The line was the brightest spot on the Wildcats offense, as they were able to open up holes for the running game and gave up only two sacks for a loss of two yards. This was the least amount of yards lost from sacks this season. The line has a whole has improved drastically the last couple weeks, silencing the large section of the fan base upset by their performance.
“People are getting the (repetitions) and getting used to game speed,” DuMont said. “(Offensive line) Coach (Rob) Boss is helping us improve; showing us exactly what we have to do each play.”
Junior transfer Phillipe Smith was the featured offensive back against the Greyhounds, as he gained 63 yards on 14 carries. Smith worked mostly in between the tackles, as 13 of his carries went through the offensive line.
“The offensive line opened a lot of holes for me,” Smith said. “They punished their defensive line.”
Smith, a transfer from the University of Central Florida, was never the feature back at NMU until this week. After averaging 4.6 yards per carry with the Golden Knights in 2007, the six-foot-one-inch, 205-pound running back is regaining his composure on the field.
“I’m getting my legs back and I’m comfortable with the running plays. I start to get in a groove as the game goes on,” Smith said.
The rest of the Wildcat offense will get a chance to get back into the groove with Smith this week, against GLIAC cellar-dweller Tiffin University. This will be the first time in two weeks that the Wildcats will be away from the shelter of the Superior Dome, protecting NMU from both the weather and Northern’s road record of 1-3 this season.
“We will go out there and take care of the things we can take care of,” Lehmann said.