NMU Football: ’Cats offense and defense clash in annual scrimmage to conclude 2012 spring season

Jon Young

The Wildcats concluded the spring football season last Saturday at the Superior Dome with their annual intra-squad spring scrimmage.

First-year head coach Chris Ostrowsky said he was happy with the team’s performance, but was really impressed with the environment set by the fans and the band.

“I thought it was a great, great atmosphere,” Ostrowsky said. “The involvement and the interaction with the fans was awesome. The band being there was great; it was great to see those guys. They made for a great environment.”

The crowd was treated to a showdown between the offense in green and the defense in white.

The scoring was set up like fantasy football.

The offense was able to pick up points on first downs, plays over 20 yards, field goals, touchdowns, two-point conversions and extra points.

“We had some big third down gets that we haven’t gotten during the course of the spring,” Ostrowsky said. “We had some big plays that we haven’t gotten and we did a nice job running the ball, so overall I thought it was good from start to finish.”

Junior quarterback Cody Scepaniak and redshirt freshman Ryan Morley split time behind center and both finished with similar numbers. Scepaniak completed 9-20 passes for 133 yards and no interceptions. Morley was 10-22 for 156 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

Ostrowsky said he likes what he has seen out of both of the players and will wait until fall to make a decision on his starter for the season.

First-year defensive coordinator Brian Newberry said the spring has been a learning experience for the team as they’re trying to learn a new defense.

“I was going to call pretty much everything we had in, and I wanted to see us execute,” Newberry said. “I think we’re still learning, still growing as a defense. I think the guys have bought in to what we’re doing; they’re playing hard, they just have to learn the system a little better.”

The defense could get points on tackles for loss, turnover on downs, sacks, safety, interceptions, stops, fumble recoveries and touchdowns.

Newberry said the team used the spring practices to improve and build a foundation.

“What we want to do in spring ball is get better every day, get two percent better every day,” Newberry said. “If we feel like we’re doing that, then we’re making progress. We talked to them about, you’re either getting better of you’re getting worse; you don’t ever stay the same.”

The defense’s first unit didn’t give up a touchdown. Newberry said he was impressed with the play of the defensive line but with a new defense in place the secondary is going to need some work.

“If your defensive line makes mistakes nobody sees it, linebackers cover it up. If your linebackers make mistakes, some people see it, but the secondary covers it up. If the secondary makes mistakes, it costs you ball games,” Newberry said. “Those guys have to be as close to perfect as they can be, and they’re young and they got better, but we have a long ways to go.”

The ’Cats are done with their spring season, but will return in the fall with a pair of seniors who missed most of the 2011 season with medical redshirts.

On the offensive end, runningback John Privitelli will get another crack at a senior season.

“It adds a ton, he’s a very versatile football player, he returns kicks for us, he’s a good third-down back, he’s a strong kid; he’s really a big time addition for our offense,” Ostrowsky said.

On the defensive side of the ball, 2010 first-team All-GLIAC linebacker Eddie Knoblock will look to add a veteran presence to the defense.

“Eddie returns as one of the best players in the conference and his leadership and ability to understand the speed of the game, you just can’t match that,” Ostrowsky said.

The ’Cats will kick off their 2012 season on Aug. 30 as they travel to Ohio to take on the University of Findlay Oilers.