NMU struggles offensively in 21-7 loss

ROOM+FOR+IMPROVEMENT%E2%80%94After+falling+short+on+homecoming+21-7+against+Davenport%2C+the+Wildcats+have+to+rebound+when+they+take+on+the+second-ranked+nationally+Ferris+State+Bulldogs.+Last+year%2C+Ferris+defeated+NMU+35-19+in+Marquette+during+their+15-1+campaign.+NMU+will+have+to+be+ready+for+the+Bulldogs%2C+when+they+kickoff+at+3+p.m.+on+Saturday%2C+Sept.+28.+Photo+courtesy+of+NMU+Athletics.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT—After falling short on homecoming 21-7 against Davenport, the Wildcats have to rebound when they take on the second-ranked nationally Ferris State Bulldogs. Last year, Ferris defeated NMU 35-19 in Marquette during their 15-1 campaign. NMU will have to be ready for the Bulldogs, when they kickoff at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 28. Photo courtesy of NMU Athletics.

Travis Nelson

The NMU Football team came up short this past weekend in their homecoming game by a score of 21-7 against the Davenport University (DU) Panthers. The loss drops the Wildcats to 1-2 on the season and 0-1 in Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) play. 

Head coach Kyle Nystrom was happy with how his defense played but said the offense was a disaster. Even though the offense couldn’t get much going, the defense kept Northern right in the game, with DU only holding a 7-0 halftime lead. However, the Panthers practically put the game away toward the end of the third quarter, when they took 8:56 off of the clock on a 19-play scoring drive to extend its lead to 14-0. NMU was down 21-0 late in the fourth quarter when they scored its only points in the game with one minute remaining, with running back Tyshon King found the end-zone. Quarterback Ryan Johnson finished 9-25 passing, with 154 yards for the `Cats air attack, and King led the ground game with 17 carries for 63 yards. The game was statistically even for the most part, with DU gaining only three more first downs (16-13), and less than five minutes in time of possession (32:04-27:56). However, it goes back to the offense where the discrepancy comes in, as the Panthers outgained the Wildcats 335-206.

NMU will be in need of a big bounce-back effort this weekend, as they travel to Big Rapids to take on the second-ranked  Ferris State University (FSU) Bulldogs. FSU finished 15-1 last season while winning the GLIAC Championship and making it all the way to the NCAA Division II National Championship Game, where they came up just short 49-47 against Valdosta State University (VSU). One of those 15 wins a year ago came against the Wildcats, when the Bulldogs picked up a 35-19 road victory in the Superior Dome. Nystrom was previously the defensive coordinator at FSU before taking the head job at Northern, so he is fully aware of how good this team is.

“They’re better than they’ve ever been, a lot better than even when I was there, they are very experienced and they are very good,” Nystrom said. “I look at it as a great opportunity for us, I don’t worry about this or that, I look at it as a great chance to make a big bang, and that’s how we look at this game.”

The Bulldogs are led by quarterback Jayru Campbell, the Detroit native won the 2018 Harlon Hill Trophy recognizing Division II’s best player. 

“They got Jayru (Campbell), Jayru’s the best player in college football, the last time I checked he won the Harlon Hill last year, he’s pretty good,” Nystrom said.

This unit isn’t just a one-man show however, last season’s national runner ups have more than just a quarterback.

“They’re strong everywhere, their offensive line is better than I’ve ever seen it, their running backs are phenomenal, Marvin’s (Campbell) still back there and they got two other guys that are really good when they get in,” Nystrom said. “Their defense,  I don’t know if they lost a starter from last year, so they’re greased up and good.”

Ferris has averaged 38 points per game so far through its three victories, and Nystrom was blown away talking about this team, he even comparing them in DII to the likes of the Clemson Tigers, the DI defending national champions. They put up 62 points in a road victory over Central Washington University (CWU), and are going to be a very tough task for the Wildcats.

“When you go into Central Washington and put up those kind of points, you go to Ashland and do what they did to them, we’re going to have fun getting ready to play them, and it’s a great opportunity for us, I look forward to going back.” Nystrom said. “I think our players will look forward to going to play them and have a great opportunity to make a big bang if we can do things really well.”

However, even knowing how good FSU is, this is a winnable  game for NMU. Nystrom said it is possible, but everything will need to be done perfectly.

“We’re going to have to really execute on offense, we’re going to have to be really  good and we’re going to have to  have a peak performance,” Nystrom said.

Nystrom and his team are embracing the underdog role, and want to make a statement in Big Rapids on Saturday afternoon. Nystrom said that they won’t shy away and that they just have to play the cards that they are dealt with playing a team like the Bulldogs.

“We’re getting better as a football team. It will be really good for us to play this game. I expect us to play well and we’re going to have fun going into it,” Nystrom said. “It’ll be homecoming at Ferris, there will be a lot of noise and a lot of boos for the ol’ green and gold, but you have to ride that and make it a plus.”

The Wildcats and Bulldogs will kickoff from Top Taggart Field at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 28.