’Cats get second win in double overtime

Jon Young

Like last week, it came down to the last play, and like last week, senior defensive back Jacob Lehmann came up with an interception to propel the NMU football team to a 30-23 double-overtime victory over the University of Findlay Oilers.

Junior defensive end and GLIAC defensive player of the week Zach Anderson said the team doesn’t like the game coming down to the wire.

“These past two games have been too close for us; I don’t like it like that. The team doesn’t like it,” Anderson said. “Those close games force the big plays to come out.”

NMU (1-0 GLIAC, 2-0 overall) relied on several of those big plays Anderson mentioned to take the conference matchup. To begin overtime, the Oilers had marched their way to the NMU two-yard line with a 23-yard scramble.

The ’Cats defense was able to hold the Oilers out of the end zone with solid play from the line. The Oilers kicked a 22-yard field goal to move ahead. The ’Cats responded with a 44-yard field goal of their own from junior kicker Rockne Belmonte.

“The first half we played a lot; we felt like we played a whole game by halftime. The whole second half was a struggle, a straight dogfight,” Anderson said. “Fatigue was setting in. Especially coming down to overtime we knew we had to step it up and make those big plays.”

In the second overtime, senior quarterback Carter Kopach and the wide receivers got the ’Cats into the end-zone. Kopach hit junior fullback Jared Buss with a 16-yard strike to start the drive. The next play, Kopach targeted sophomore wide receiver Christian Jessie for a nine-yard gain and the game winning touchdown.
Kopach said the play of his receivers and offensive line has helped him in the pocket.

“The receivers have been great top to bottom; the offensive line has been doing phenomenal for me,” Kopach said. “I got this easy job, stand back there and throw the ball and run around a little bit.”

The Oilers had one more attempt to keep the game alive but was thwarted by the efforts of senior defensive back Jacob Lehmann for the second week in a row. He came up with an interception on fourth and goal to end the game. Head coach Bernie Anderson said he wasn’t blown away by his team’s performance, but can’t argue with the end result.

“Well, it was a very hard fought tough game that was tough for either team to lose,” Anderson said. “We were fortunate we made big plays when we had to make big plays, but we didn’t play the type of game we would hope or expect to. But it’s a road win and we’ll take it.”

The Wildcats had three turnovers in the first quarter, but did score the first points of the game on a 41-yard field goal from Belmonte. The Oilers responded with a seven-yard touchdown run and two-point conversion.
The Oilers had an eight point lead before Kopach’s nine-yard scramble brought NMU back within one, and Findlay went into the half leading 11-10.

The ‘Cats were led on the offensive end by Kopach who scrambled for 93 yards and a touchdown. He was 18-for-33 for 158 yards and a touchdown. Christian Jessie led the receiving squad with nine receptions for 66 yards and a touchdown.

Anderson was a force on the defensive end, racking up 13 tackles and a sack. Senior linebacker Robert Edmonds added 11 tackles to help balance the NMU defense.

NMU’s next game is at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17 at the Superior Dome. The ’Cats host the Northwood University Timberwolves (0-1 GLIAC, 1-1 overall). (Coach) Anderson said he expects a battle.

“Northwood’s always a physical team who runs an option that nobody else does,” Anderson said. “It doesn’t change much when we play a GLIAC team; we know if we don’t play well we will get beat.”