’Cats thrash UW-La Crosse in home opener

Jon Young

Despite a dominant defense in their game against the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse on Thursday Sept 8, the ’Cats were still barely clinging to a 7-6 lead halfway through the third quarter.

NMU was backed up on their own 7-yard line on third and 11 when redshirt freshman quarterback Ryan Morley hit junior wide-receiver Christian Marble-King with a 56-yard strike.

“After he caught that ball the momentum just shifted,” said senior running back Prince Young. “Everybody said ‘we can do this, we can drive from 92 yards and score every time.’ We just have to know it, execute and get on with it.”

Four plays later, Young punched in his second touchdown for the night on a one-yard run with 7:41 left in the third quarter.

NMU never looked back after that on their way to a 24-6 victory.

Young racked up 102 yards on 27 carries to go along with his three touchdowns.

Head coach Chris Ostrowsky said Young is going to have his number called on a lot this season.

“Prince Young’s a work horse,” Ostrowsky said. “He’s one of the few guys we have that are older, that have been there and we’re going to have to ride him and count on him.”

Even after the low scoring first half the Wildcats (0-1 GLIAC, 1-1 overall) stuck with the run game and physically dominated the smaller Eagles.

“It helped wear them down a lot,” Young said. “They’re fast (UW-La Crosse) and they can get to it but as we just keep pushing away and pushing away and keep wearing them down and wearing them down and keep hitting holes something is bound to open up.”

On the defensive end it was the same story as the Wildcats used their size and speed to dominate UW-La Crosse.

Senior defensive end Zach Anderson said the team hopes to build off the performance.

“I feel like this is a stepping stone, obviously the first week didn’t go as planned but we really needed this week to come together and get the defense unified as a family,” Anderson said. “Having a six-point show brings everyone together and lets the younger guys know that we can do it, we can shut down teams.”

On the opening possession of the game the Eagles marched down the field on a 15-play 69-yard drive to take a 6-0 lead.
Anderson said the team was initially overlooking their Division III opponent.

“I’m blaming that first drive, the one that they got, I’m going to say that we took the D-III team lightly,” Anderson said. “No way around it, I’m not going to sugarcoat it, that’s how I feel. But we came in after that drive and said ‘hey they didn’t come to mess around, they aren’t playing lets go.’”

The Wildcats didn’t allow another score after that and held the Eagles to under 200 yards of total offense.

NMU had nine tackles for loss and three sacks on the night. Senior linebacker Eddie Knoblock who led the team with nine tackles said defensive coordinator Brian Newberry’s play calling coupled with the defense buying into the system led to the dominate showing.

“I’d say it’s a two part success story, he’s calling the right plays and we’re running what we’re supposed to,” Knoblock said. “He knows what schemes we’re running, we trust him and I think everyone was just fired up out there.”

Morley finished the game, 11-25, for 169 yards and one interception. He also rushed for 29 yards.

Despite a dip in his numbers from the game against Findlay, Ostrowsky was pleased with Morley’s performance.

“(This was a) step forward, no question about it,” Ostrowsky said. “I think he (Morley) handled some different looks and was able to decipher some different coverages. When you look at the big third-down passes he threw, I think it was a step forward for sure.”

The defense held the Eagles to 196 yards of total offense and sophomore defensive lineman Jordan Adediran recorded an interception for the ’Cats after the UW-La Crosse quarterback was hit while throwing.

Adediran returned the ball 26 yards to set-up another rushing touchdown for Young.

Ostrowsky said the defense’s performance was a huge step in the learning curve that followed the switch to a 4-3.

“Terminology’s brand new, philosophy is brand new, approach is brand new, so with every week our kids have become more comfortable with the verbiage, consequently we’ll become more successful on defense and today was a dominant dominant show on defense,” Ostrowsky said.

The offense finished with 313 total yards and 13 first downs. King led the receivers with 81 yards on three catches.
The Wildcats are on the road next weekend as they take on Ohio Dominican.

The game gets underway at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15 in Columbus, Ohio. It is the first time the two schools have met.