Football team brings winning record to Detroit

Ray Bressette

The Wildcat football team has won four of their first six games for the first time since 2009. Now, the ’Cats will look to end another losing streak this weekend when they take on the Wayne State University Warriors in Detroit, a place where they have not won in 11 years.

Ostrowsky said he was unaware the ’Cats’ losing streak in Detroit stretches as long as it has.

“More than anything they’ve been a good football program, they’re three years removed from playing in a national championship, they’ve had countless NFL players on their roster-they’ve been a really good football team in my three and a half years.”

Despite being above .500 this late in the season for the first time under Ostrowsky’s head coaching tenure, the ’Cats have not won a road game yet this year with both losses this season coming away from the Dome. NMU slipped their season opener against Northwood University 20-7 on Sept. 5 in Midland, Mich. and battled the No. 14-ranked Michigan Tech Huskies to the final play of the game, losing 24-23 on a blocked Wildcat field goal on Sept. 26 in Houghton.

The ’Cats won their fourth out of five games last weekend 41-13 over the Malone University Pioneers on Family Day on Saturday, Oct. 10 at the Superior Dome. Senior wide receiver and kick returner Marcus Tucker set the tone early, bringing the opening kick 52 yards to the Malone 43-yard line. Senior running back Terrance Dye picked up the rest of the field on the next play, earning a 43-yard touchdown to put the Wildcats on top 7-0 and they would never look back.

Tucker is averaging the third most yards per game amongst GLIAC teams, averaging 85.2 yards. NMU’s junior quarterback Shaye Brown is the GLIAC’s fourth leading passer in yards, averaging 263.5 yards per game.

Senior wide receiver Trey Hipke said the culture on this year’s team is dedicated to finishing the game.

“We’re all excited. This is the closest team I’ve been on in five years,” Hipke said. “The atmosphere and bonds are incredibly close. We’re going on the field expecting to win, and we have a lot of confidence. Last year we were in a lot of games and weren’t use to that kind of pressure. We’re coming out now and instead of expecting to compete, we’re expecting to win.”

The Wildcat defense is allowing 387.3 yards per game and 21.5 points. Junior linebacker LJ Liston’s average of 12.4 tackles per game leads the conference.

NMU sits fourth in the eight-team GLIAC North Division with a 3-2 conference record, 4-2 overall.

Wayne State sits seventh in the division, 1-4 in conference play and 2-4 overall. The Warriors are riding a three-game losing streak and are coming off a 38-17 loss at home to the Grand Valley State University Lakers on Saturday, Oct. 10.

The Wayne State offense is averaging the second lowest of the 15 teams in the GLIAC, putting up 307.3 yards per game.

The Warriors are depending on a freshman quarterback this season, as the 6 foot 1 inch D.J. Zezula has started all six games for Wayne State with 922 passing yards, 10 throwing touchdowns and four interceptions. His top target has been a redshirt-junior wide receiver Jamel Hicks, who’s caught 368 yards and three touchdowns. Redshirt-sophomore wide receiver Manny Mendoza is a capable receiver next on the depth chart, putting up 224 yards with  four touchdowns.

Opposing quarterbacks against the Warriors are averaging 206.2 yards per game, while opposing rushers are averaging 134.7 yards. Much of Wayne State’s defensive struggles are credited to their inability to stop their opponents in the redzone, as 86 percent of their trips in their own red zone result in a score.

The last time the ’Cats beat Wayne State in Detroit was in 2004, three head coaches ago when Doug Sams coached NMU to an 18-13 victory. The Wildcats have won two straight games over the Warriors, with last year’s win a 33-30 victory, with freshman kicker Ryan LaBerge kicking a 24-yard field goal in the final seconds to win the game.

Ostrowsky said every game is a stepping stone toward becoming a stronger program.

“I think we want to take an honest approach to each day,” Ostrowsky said. “We are 4-2 because we’ve relied on our preparation as a football program. We have some really great senior leaders who have been a big part of this program and have stayed completely committed. We want to work hard every single day, and this is only the beginning. We’re just scratching the surface of where we want to be as a program.”