Wildcats tie bow on 2019 season


SEASON FINALE—Redshirt freshman running back Sebastian Toland carries the ball against Saginaw Valley State University on Saturday, Nov. 9 in the second-to-last game of the season for the Wildcats. Photo courtesy of NMU Athletics

Travis Nelson

In the final game of the season, the Wildcats Football team battled but ultimately fell 31-10 to the Ashland University (AU) Eagles on Saturday, Nov. 16 to end the year with a 1-9 record.

NMU had its chances to pick up a road victory, as they only trailed 14-10 at halftime after sophomore quarterback Keshawn Howard’s 34-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Head Coach Kyle Nystrom said that in the third quarter when the team trailed 17-10, he thinks they would’ve scored a touchdown to tie the game if the offense had executed an option play correctly. Instead, the Wildcats had to settle for a field goal on fourth down, but the kick was blocked. AU took advantage and tacked on two more touchdowns from running back Jeffrey Barnett in the fourth quarter. Barnett had a total of three touchdowns in the game for the Eagles, and the 21 points ultimately was the difference in the scoring column.

The ‘Cats played two quarterbacks once again with Howard and sophomore Ryan Johnson, but neither could find their rhythm in the passing game. The duo of signal callers combined for 5-16 passing for 51 yards and two interceptions. Howard led the team in rushing with 16 carries for 87 yards, but Nystrom said that his team must be able to throw the ball in order to put pressure on defenses.

“We’ve got to be able to throw the ball, because everybody just packs the box,” Nystrom said. “They got all 11 defenders, they got the coaching staff, they got the cheerleading squad, they got everybody packed in there. The only way to back them out of the box is to be able to go after them and hit them with the ball in the air.”

Nystrom said he had to re-do the defense this week due to how Saginaw Valley State gashed them throwing the ball in the 56-10 loss on Saturday, Nov. 9. The defense held up pretty well against AU, as NMU only gave up 144 passing yards in the season finale. 

The season didn’t go how the players or the coaching staff wanted it to go, but Nystrom takes away some positives from this season, including how much youth he will be returning in 2020.

“[We were] a team that was very young, and we got pushed around and ran by a little bit because we don’t match up yet experience-wise,” Nystrom said. “But that’ll make you better with your younger players because they’ve been thrown in the fire earlier than most.”

Nystrom added that the majority of the roster is either freshmen or sophomores, and that they will be adding transfers to the team next year that had to sit out this season. The Wildcats’ coaching staff is off to recruit, and the players will be back in the spring to kick-off the first practices of next year’s new season.