Football flops in season opener

Charles+Bryce%2FSan+Angelo+Standard-Times

Charles Bryce/San Angelo Standard-Times

Trevor Drew

Execution problems, penalties, turnovers and an erratic, inconsistent defense were things head coach Kyle Nystrom listed as reasons his club was swamped 20-48 in their season opener against the St. Angelo State University Rams last Saturday.

Back in summer, the newly appointed coach said to become a winning team, the Wildcats needed to restore their culture back to that of a high-effort program, describing the transition process as “starting from scratch.”

Summer is gone, conference play is around the corner and Nystrom’s evaluation of his gridders has been bumped to an “infantile stage” adding that they are still trying to transition.

“I watch them. I see when their train gets off the tracks a little bit and I have to step in and put it back on,” Nystrom said. “That’s a process that doesn’t happen in the amount of time we’ve been here so far. How long it takes? It depends on how mature your team is. Only time will tell with that.”

Eager to get on the board, the Rams scored a touchdown off a 5-yard rush from St. Angelo’s Spencer Gilbert in their first possession within two and a half minutes of kick-off. A blocked PAT would spare the Wildcats from a 7-point deficit.

Taking advantage of a Wildcat drive that netted minus 1-yards due to a false start penalty, St. Angelo scored their next possession off another rushing play, from ten yards out. Once again Northern denied extra points, thwarting an ASU 2-point conversion attempt.

On their third possession, the Wildcats marched down the field, fueled by the rushing efforts of senior quarterback Jaranta Lewis and junior running back Jake Mayon. Northern iced the drive with a 7-yard pass from Lewis to junior wide receiver Michael Akinlade into pay dirt, capping off scoring in the first quarter. A successful extra point attempt from freshman kicker Dalton Ray left the score at 12-7 going into the second frame.

On the second drive of the second quarter, NMU moved the ball to the Angelo State 28-yard line but Ray’s field goal attempt was blocked. The Rams closed out the half with two touchdowns, taking a 26-7 lead.

The Wildcats went on to score two more touchdowns but their 13-point second half output wouldn’t be enough to overwhelm their opponent who accumulated 48 points, more than doubling NMU’s score.

Lewis found sophomore wide receiver Ryan Knight for an 83-yard touchdown catch in the
third half.

Sophomore quarterback Latrell Giles came into the game as play-caller for the Wildcats in the final frame and successfully got the squad down the field behind Mayon and freshman running back Deandre Caldwell rushing for 64 yards on the drive.  Giles then found Knight in the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown in the final seconds of the game.

“I saw things during the game that were promising but like you hear people say, there’s no moral victories in just a couple things when you don’t win a game,” Nystrom said. “Disappointed, frustrating, but it’s time to move forward.”

Next Saturday, the Wildcats hit the road to Big Rapids to square off against the 2nd-ranked Ferris State  Bulldogs, the program where Nystrom previously served as defensive coordinator.

“[Ferris head coach Tony Annesse] knows what we do. That doesn’t mean I’m going to change it. I’ve got to coach what I know and we’ve got to be good enough to execute it,” Nystrom said. “In the long run, it comes down to one guy doing his job better than the other guy across from him.”