Two touchdowns and a career-high 247 rushing yards from junior running back Jake Mayon propelled him and his fellow Wildcats to their first victory of the season in their homecoming game against the Davenport University Panthers.
The victory was appreciated by head coach Kyle Nystrom, who credited the triumph to effort put forth by his players and staff.
Nystrom said despite a few attempts, his team was able to contain Davenport’s passing game to 88 yards while freshman quarterback Ryan Johnson led the Wildcats with 131 passing yards in his first ever college game.
“It was awesome,” Johnson said after his first run as starting quarterback. “[The coaching staff] couldn’t have prepared me better.”
Although the team never gave up the lead to the Panthers, the Wildcat’s weren’t free from error in the eyes of Nystrom, who pointed out several areas that need improvement.
“It wasn’t pretty in the second half. We were sputtering on execution in offense in the middle of the second quarter moving forward,” Nystrom said.
He added that, at times, the defense was unable to cope with inside runs from Davenport, which resulted in two Panther touchdowns in the fourth quarter, putting them within three points of taking the lead.
The Wildcats didn’t hesitate to get started and by the end of the first half, they had cranked out a 17-0 lead built off two touchdowns in the first quarter and a field goal in the opening minutes of the second half.
Neither team would score until the fourth quarter when Davenport came back to life and put up two touchdowns, making the score 17-14 with about five minutes left in the game.
Wildcat fans bit their nails at the thought of losing grasp of the situation, but Mayon stepped up to the plate and took control for the Wildcats.
“Jake bailed us out,” Nystrom said.
At less than five minutes left in the match, the Wildcats stood on their own 42-yard line with the Panthers breathing down their necks. Johnson called the play, backed up and handed the ball off to Mayon who broke out of the pocket and marched like a horse for 58 yards into the end zone solidifying Northern’s lead, 24-14, and capped off scoring for the competition.
“We’ve got to be some dogs out there,” Mayon said reflecting on the game. “It’s great to have a clutch play like that. It gets everybody even more excited and I love doing it. I love playing the game.”
With homecoming out of the way, the Wildcats now look to next Saturday when they travel to Houghton to take on their archrival team, the Michigan Tech Huskies, for the 2017 Miner’s Cup.
In the past 15 years, Northern has only managed to beat Tech three times and haven’t overcome them since the 2009 season.
Mayon has yet to see a Wildcat team overcome their rivals and hopes this year the program can finally notch “four” into how may Miner’s Cups they’ve won.
“I’ve had a chip on my shoulder ever since last year. I had a downfall at the end of the game. I didn’t finish, so I’ve been carrying that with me,” Mayon said. “I’m just going to drive harder. I’m going to work harder. This game means so much more to this whole university to the community, to the alumni. We’re all going to be dogs throughout the whole week and work like it.”