`Cats look to break 9-year drought

VYING+FOR+RECOVERY%E2%80%94After+a+disappointing+loss+to+Wayne+State%2C+the+Wildcats+are+in+need+of+a+statement+win.+The+road+doesn%E2%80%99t+get+much+easier+however%2C+as+NMU+will+take+on+Michigan+Tech+next.+The+Huskies+have+won+the+past+nine+contests+against+the+%60Cats%2C+so+a+Tech+win+on+Saturday+would+complete+the+decade+sweep.+Travis+Nelson%2FNW

VYING FOR RECOVERY—After a disappointing loss to Wayne State, the Wildcats are in need of a statement win. The road doesn’t get much easier however, as NMU will take on Michigan Tech next. The Huskies have won the past nine contests against the `Cats, so a Tech win on Saturday would complete the decade sweep. Travis Nelson/NW

Travis Nelson

The Wildcats Football team returned home to the Superior Dome on Saturday, Oct. 5 to face the Wayne State Warriors and ultimately lost 27-14. This brought Northern to 1-4 on the season.

Looking back at the game, it wasn’t as close as the score showed. Saturday was a mistake-ridden day for NMU. The ‘Cats were outgained 358-38 on the ground and were decimated 26-7 in first downs. Penalties at inconvenient times, turnovers and lack of offensive production resulted in the disappointing result in a game that Head Coach Kyle Nystrom declared a “must-win” earlier in the week. However, one particular mistake stands out among the rest.

“You can sum this game up in one play and everybody knows what it is,” Nystrom said. “The fullback went the wrong way, bumped into the ball and the ball was on the floor and they picked it up.”

Nystrom was referring to a play late in the second quarter, where the Wildcats fumbled the football inside of the Wayne State five-yard line, hoping to take the lead in a then 14-14 contest. The Warriors would recover the ball and go down the field 92 yards for a score of their own. Wayne State took a 21-14 lead into halftime and outscored NMU 6-0 in the second half for the final score. The offense couldn’t hit its stride, as the Wildcats totaled 183 yards. In fact, of the two NMU touchdowns, one was from a kick return by Tyquan Cox, and the other on a short 14-yard drive after an interception return by safety Brady Hanson.

“We’re just too stagnant on offense right now. At times we’re in rhythm and doing the right thing and we can move the ball, but then somebody goes the wrong way,” Nystrom said. We talked about it last night [Friday, Oct. 4]. We have to play perfect, we can’t have mental mistakes. If we don’t do it perfect, we don’t have a chance.”

There were positive glimses for Northern, as the defense only gave up six second half points which gave them a chance to win. However, the winner of the day for NMU was Cox, whose three kick returns totaled for 145 yards including a 99-yard return for a touchdown in the first quarter. Cox’s efforts earned him GLIAC Special Teams Player of the Week.

“Going into this week, we were preaching that we needed a kick return. Obviously we knew that we had a chance this week because it looked like on film that they were struggling a little bit in that area,” Cox said. “I caught it, saw a seam and hit it as fast as I could. I had one man to beat, beat the kicker and I was like, ‘no one can catch me now.’ The blockers did really well on what they needed to do. That’s going to be a big team for us in the future, so as long as we keep executing, we can get points off of it.”

Even though NMU’s team must look back to see what they can improve on, they need to shift gears quickly as they travel to Houghton to take on their arch rival Michigan Tech for the Miner’s Cup on Saturday, Oct. 12. The Huskies are 2-2 on the season, including a road 24-19 victory over McKendree University in week two—the same team that the Wildcats defeated in the season opener for its lone victory on the year. Tech has had a good year thus far, and Nystrom is aware of the challenge that awaits his team come Saturday.

“They’re really good this year. This is the best team I’ve seen them put together,” Nystrom said. “They’ve done a nice job, they’ve got a lot of veterans. They’re stocked.”

If there is a number to follow going into this matchup, it is nine. The number nine represents the number of times that Michigan Tech has beaten Northern Michigan in a row. The Huskies have dominated the rivalry as of late, and are going for the decade sweep. This year’s game won’t be any easier for NMU to finally pick up the win that they’ve been searching for, not only in the rivalry, but to save the season.

“It’s very irritating. Extremely,” Nystrom said. “So you either fix it, or take it.”

Nystrom said he’s hoping for consistency, especially on the offensive side, adding that his players need to do things the right way.

“I don’t question our attitude, our want, our effort or our toughness. I don’t question that,” Nystrom said. “What I question is our ability to do everything right all the time and persevere for a long time that way. That’s where we’re a little deficient, and we have to improve. You can’t win football games with costly mistakes and we’ve got to move the ball and get points.”

This is one of the biggest games that Nystrom has faced in his tenure so far at NMU. This weekend could culminate in a culture change for the program. It is a critical ball game for the Wildcats on Saturday. This isn’t just a normal game, there is more on the line when these teams play for the Miner’s Cup.

“I told our players and coaches you have one of two choices.You can either come back this week and prepare for everything you do during the week to go beat your rival, or not,” Nystrom said. “The thing about a rivalry game is that if you win it, it counts more than one.”

Kick off is at 1 p.m. from Sherman Field in Houghton.