Wildcats determined to finish strong

Jon Young

Statistics don’t always tell the tale in sports, which was made clear by the NMU football teams’ 42-7 loss against the Grand Valley State University Lakers last Saturday.
The ’Cats collected more first downs and passing yards than the Lakers but weren’t able to take advantage of red-zone opportunities.

NMU (2-3 GLIAC, 3-3 overall) only scored on one of their three trips to the red-zone. Head coach Bernie Anderson said the missed chances put his team out of contention.
“It kills you anytime you get down there and you don’t come out with points,” Anderson said. “It’s not only a setback from not having points, it’s a setback mentally, and we just had too many setbacks to overcome.”

The Lakers (2-3 GLIAC, 3-3 overall) took advantage of the ’Cats’ mistakes. After jumping out to an early 14-0 lead, the NMU defense forced Grand Valley into their first punt of the game.

Freshman wide receiver Josh McNeil dropped the punt, and the Lakers, recovered and scored four plays later. Anderson said injuries have forced him to put younger players in the game.

“We were on our fourth punt returner due to injuries,” Anderson said. “We stuck a freshman back there and he made a freshman mistake.”

The Wildcats got their offense rolling in the second quarter with a 15-play, 77-yard drive that ended with a touchdown from junior running back Prince Young.
The ’Cats defense forced another punt and put the offense in position to score before half.

The offense pushed the ball with a 22-yard rush from Young and a 19-yard pass to senior wide receiver Jared Buss.

NMU was on the Grand Valley 15-yard line when senior quarterback Carter Kopach’s pass was intercepted with less than two minutes left in the half.
Anderson said the Lakers game plan caused problems all day.

“We knew coming in that Grand Valley was a good football team and they proved it today,” Anderson said. “They did some things that took away what we do best and they moved the ball and put points on the board. We failed to put points on the board and we failed to keep points off the board.”

The ’Cats continued to battle and started off the second half with a defensive stop and another long drive.

NMU marched 77 yards down the field before missing a 25-yard field goal. The Lakers responded with another touchdown to take a 28-7 lead.

The Lakers racked up 201 yards rushing on the ground, averaging five yards a carry. Senior defensive back Marcus Tribble said missed tackles hurt the team.

“We just have to execute better,” Tribble said. “They may have good running backs, but we can’t miss tackles like that. Once you get down its hard to come back, especially when it’s a good team.”

The game was still in striking distance for the ’Cats in the fourth quarter, before two straight interceptions sealed the deal.

The Lakers returned the first interception 92 yards for the touchdown. Anderson said, despite Grand Valley’s 3-3 record they’re still a powerhouse in the GLIAC.

“They do a lot of things to you that don’t make it easy,” Anderson said. “You take a good football team like that, now they’ve been embarrassed, and I’m not sure if they’ll lose another game this year. For us, we just need to start over on Monday and go to work.”

NMU’s ground attack was lead by Kopach with 66 yards and Young with 53 yards and a touchdown.

Kopach had 259 yards in the air and four interceptions. Defensively, Northern was lead by sophomore defensive back Morgan Stenz with seven tackles.

The ’Cats are on the road next week as they take on the Ferris State University Bulldogs (3-2 GLIAC, 4-2 overall). Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15 in Big Rapids, Mich.