The Northern Michigan University football team closed the door on another season with a heartbreaking 12-0 loss to rival Michigan Tech last Saturday, Nov. 13. The Wildcats finished 5-6 overall and 5-5 in the GLIAC.
“I felt that it was the perfect atmosphere for the last game,” said senior defensive tackle DJ Catalano. “I’m disappointed that we lost, but it was a fun game. We showed effort and I was really happy I got to play with my teammates one last time.”
Defensive back DJ Oke led the team in tackles with 10 total stops and a broken up pass. Linebacker Eddie Knoblock also had ten stops in the game. Eighteen Wildcats had tackles in the game and seven of them had tackles for a loss.
“Basically the defense was strong because everyone has a job to do,” Catalano said. “It’s not a selfish defense. It’s a defense based on doing your job, and when you have the opportunity, you do it.”
Both teams struggled to get their offenses going in the snowy weather. The two teams combined for just 365 yards of total offense, 20 first downs and completed 11 of 30 pass attempts. NMU’s John Privitelli led both teams in all-purpose yards with 103 rushing yards and 22 kick return yards.
Michigan Tech was able to get on the board with a four-yard touchdown pass from Steve Short to Brian Stowowy with 1:42 left in the first quarter. Tech was also able to grab six more points in the third quarter as Short crossed the goal line on a one-yard QB keeper. The Huskies usually reliable kicker Tyler Cattelino, who was named GLIAC special teams player of the week twice this season, missed both PAT attempts and a 27-yard field goal to make the final 12-0.
Northern Michigan also lost the Miner’s Cup, the rivalry trophy between the two schools since 2003. The 12-0 score was the lowest total points scored in the history of the Cup, and it has changed schools the last five seasons.
The Wildcats loss took away the chance at the first back to back winning seasons for the football team since the 1999 (6-4) and 2000 (6-5) seasons. However, the Wildcats did manage to go 5-5 in conference play, placing them in a four-way tie for third place in the GLIAC North and sixth place overall. NMU tied in the standings with Indianapolis (lost 6-5, Oct. 23 at home), Ferris (won 22-20, Oct. 16 at home), and Northwood (won 31-17, Sept. 18 at Northwood).
NMU also had ten Wildcats honored by the conference for their play this season. Knobloch and Oke were named to the first team All-GLIAC, while defensive tackle Zach Anderson, linebacker John Blessing and defensive back Ricky Neaves were named to the second team. Wide receiver Dustin Brancheau, Catalano, Privitelli, offensive lineman Jason DuMont and defensive end Eric Wells were named honorable mention.
The Wildcats will now be moving forward to the 2011 season, as expectations have been set high already for the team. On offense, NMU will be losing their top wide receiver in Brancheau, but will regain receiver and return man Christian Jessie after he was ruled ineligible for this season. Quarterback Carter Kopach will be healthy for next season to help lead the spread offense and the continued use of the Wildcat offensive scheme with players like Christian Marble-King and Tony Awrey. On defense, the secondary will be hurt by the losses of Junior Michel, Neaves and Oke, but players like Jacob Lehmann and Anthony Marietti have seen playing time this year to get more in game experience. Also on defense, Knoblock, who led team in tackles and interceptions, and tackle Anderson, who led team in sacks and forced fumbles, will return.
“We’re already thinking about next year,” Anderson said. “We have a lot of juniors coming back for their senior year. We’re working with (strength and conditioning) Coach (Andy) Tysz, and starting next week we’re doing team work out and we’re looking at everyone putting in the hard work and coming stronger and harder than ever.”