‘Cats lose seventh straight

CLAWING+FOR+A+WIN%E2%80%94The+Wildcats+fell+28-10+to+Northwood+to+drop+to+1-7+on+Saturday%2C+Nov.+2.+NMU+has+two+more+games+to+break+the+streak.+Photo+courtesy+of+NMU+Athletics.

CLAWING FOR A WIN—The Wildcats fell 28-10 to Northwood to drop to 1-7 on Saturday, Nov. 2. NMU has two more games to break the streak. Photo courtesy of NMU Athletics.

Joe Rowles

The NMU Wildcats dropped its seventh straight game in a 28-10 loss to Northwood on Saturday, Nov. 2.  NMU started hot but couldn’t keep up with the resilient Timberwolves. Head Coach Kyle Nystrom found special teams and defense carried its weight for the most part, starting with the opening 43-yard return by freshman receiver Tyquon Cox. 

“There’s people blocking for him, but you don’t have to hold the blocks as long for him as you do if you or I were running,” Nystrom said.

The ‘Cats capped off the opening drive with a Tyshon King touchdown run. The first half turned into a back and forth affair and NMU hit halftime down 10-14. The defense continued its promising performance to open the second half when it forced a three and out on the ‘Wolves’ first possession. 

“Critical point in the game,” Nystrom said. “We got them in third and long, down to about their three or four yard line, third and forever. Got a big punt return out of Ryan [Knight].”

NMU’s return man Knight said the punt was deeper than expected, and credited his blockers for springing him on his 25-yard return. Returning punts was something he learned during his Wildcats career, he never played it before.

“One day they just asked, ‘You want to catch some?’” Knight said. “It’s exciting, and it’s a little nerve wracking sometimes, but you just have to trust your guys.”

Unfortunately, the Wildcat offense couldn’t capitalize on the field position. A 14-yard run on first down was called back due to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Gabe Baumann. 

“It was a buzzkill,” Nystrom said about the play.

The penalty knocked the ‘Cats out of the red-zone. They wouldn’t enter it again all day and the Timberwolves took over, ripping off a 14-0 run to finish the game. 

“The defense is playing pretty good, we just can’t get points on offense,” Nystrom said. “Our big skill players on offense, we just got to  grow up and get better there.”

Nystrom mentioned how recruiting should help down the road. After heavily featuring three receiver sets early in his tenure at NMU, the ‘Cats have moved to more two tight end and two back sets. 

“You need those fullbacks and tight ends they need to dominate some blocks,” Nystrom said. “We didn’t play well enough to win at the tight end and fullback spots.”

Late in the third quarter of the Wildcats’ loss, sophomore quarterback Ryan Johnson was benched for Keshawn Howard. The 5-foot-8 sophomore ripped off NMU’s longest run of the day on his second play under center. Nystrom said the left-handed Howard will get more time going forward.

Up next is Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU), who’ve lost four games in a row. Even at 4-5, the Cardinals are not a team the Wildcats can take lightly, with a talented offense piloted by senior quarterback Ryan Conklin. Nystrom called him the best throwing quarterback in the GLIAC. 

“[Conklin] doesn’t get the recognition because he’s not a dual threat,” Nystrom said. “He’s got a whip on him.”

The Cardinals represent a huge test for senior day. Nystrom spoke highly of the upperclassmen’s perseverance and work ethic, and mentioned how it’d be great help them cap their athletic careers with a home victory. 

If John Kwiecinski can have a repeat performance to the last time he faced off against SVSU, it would certainly help. The senior punted a 70-yarder against Saginaw Valley State in 2018, a career long. Facing his final time suiting up in the Dome, Kwiecinski said this last moment came sooner than expected and he wanted to soak it all in. 

“Especially being a punter you never know when it’s going to be your last play,” Kwiecinski said.

Ryan Knight shared the sentiment.

“Time flies. It feels like I was just a freshman,” Knight said. “We’ve definitely enjoyed our time here, it sucks that it has to come to an end.”

The Wildcats host the Cardinals at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 10 from the confines of the Superior Dome.