’Cats look forward to rival Michigan Tech

Georgette Breen-Naylor

The football team was unable to defeat Hillsdale and the ’Cats fall to 1-3 on the season.The Hillsdale Chargers used their early lead to hold off the ’Cats in the game Saturday, Oct. 5 in the Superior Dome. After being down 17-0, the Wildcats battled back, but lost to Hillsdale, 27-17.

Junior quarterback Dustin Thomas threw for 216 yards on Saturday. (Anthony Viola NW)
Junior quarterback Dustin Thomas threw for 216 yards on Saturday. (Anthony Viola NW)

The Chargers got on the board first after a three-yard rushing touchdown, and followed up with another score to go ahead 14-0. The Wildcat offense was not able to answer until the end of the second half with a field goal from freshman kicker John Oberheide to make the score 17-3.

Junior wide receiver Marcus Tucker had four catches in the game for the ’Cats with 43 yards receiving. Tucker, who has been one of the top receivers for the ’Cats this season, said he thought the team played with passion.

“I think we played with a lot of energy,” Tucker said. “We still have some growing to do as an offensive unit and also as a team.”

The Wildcats had only two seniors on the field offensively. Senior wide receiver Christian Jessie led with 64 receiving yards and returned a kickoff for a touchdown in the second half.

Jessie said the team didn’t  play to their potential.

“Penalties really hurt us,” Jessie said. “We didn’t convert on a few big play opportunities we had over the course of the game.”

The ’Cats had nine penalties for 55 yards, and a few stopped NMU drives. The Wildcats also started inside their own 20-yard line every drive except for two.

Junior quarterback Dustin Thomas said the team seemed out of sync for the majority of the game. Thomas threw for 216 yards while adding 131 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

“Hillsdale played sound on defense,” Thomas said. “Our offense is better than this, we just have to get back to work and improve for this week’s rivalry.”

The next game will be one of the ’Cats against the dogs, as NMU travels to Houghton to face rival Michigan Tech.

The rivalry started in 1920 when NMU played the Huskies two times each season. The ’Cats currently lead the series with a record of 41-38-5.

“This week nothing else matters except beating Tech,” Jessie said. “We only have one goal right now and that’s beating Tech.”

Jessie said the team isn’t concerned about a conference title or the division record right now. Instead, the focus is on winning the Mining Cup. The Mining Cup is a trophy that is awarded to the winning team at the end of each game between Tech and NMU.

“This is rivalry week,” Tucker said. “It doesn’t get any bigger than this for NMU, our staff, us as players and this community.”

For newcomers like the freshmen and the transfers, the rivalry is a new concept. Starting quarterback and transfer Thomas said he doesn’t know the rivalry, but he knows how much it means to the ’Cats, and has no intention of being on the losing end.

“I know what rivalry games are all about,” Thomas said. “This game is our championship because it’s our next game and there is a trophy involved.”

The Wildcats will travel the short distance for its first and only game within the Upper Peninsula. The game will take place at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12 at Michigan Tech.