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Northern Michigan football team ends five-game skid against Tiffin

Wildcats force seven turnovers in victory

October 29, 2011
By MATT WELLENS - Journal Sports Editor ( , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE - When Grand Valley State met the Tiffin Dragons earlier this season, the Lakers snapped an unprecedented three-game losing skid with a 70-7 win.

Two weeks ago, Northwood topped Tiffin 20-10 to end a five-game losing streak.

In Week 3, Findlay snapped a 10-game losing streak by picking up its first victory since the last time it played Tiffin on Sept. 18, 2010.

On Saturday, it was Northern Michigan University's turn for a dose of the Tiffin Dragons - also known as the GLIAC's common cure for a losing streak.

"I was nervous about if we don't come out and play and they get some plays, they'll taste blood," NMU head coach Bernie Anderson said. "Then I'll tell you what, we're in a game. We didn't allow that."

The Wildcats (4-5 overall, 3-5 in GLIAC) picked up a pair of defensive touchdowns and saw St. Ignace's Gerrit Mortensen use some trickery to score another in a 59-3 victory over the Dragons (0-9 overall, 0-8 in GLIAC) at the Superior Dome.

After starting the season 3-0 overall and 2-0 in the GLIAC, NMU lost five straight before routing the GLIAC and NCAA Division II doormats from Tiffin, Ohio.

Since joining the GLIAC in 2008, the Dragons have gone 2-40 overall and 1-37 in GLIAC play. Tiffin's only conference win came in 2008 when the Dragons topped the Wildcats, 34-28, in four overtimes.

Since then, NMU has outscored the Dragons 164-17 in three wins, counting Saturday's whooping.

"It's nice to win a game again," Anderson said. "Teams like this can scare you, but we came out and didn't take them too lightly and played the way we're capable of playing. I thought that was a real good sign for us today."

NMU senior safety Junior Michel had the first defensive touchdown of the game for Northern in the first quarter after jumping a route, picking off the pass by Tiffin quarterback Dan Pitts and marching 49 yards virtually untouched for the score.

Wildcat sophomore defensive back Morgan Stenz later picked up a Tiffin fumble on the Wildcat 3 yard line, taking it 97 yards for a score in the second quarter to put NMU up 35-0.

The Wildcats' forced a total of seven turnovers in the game, including five interceptions, though NMU did fumble one of its picks on the return to give the Dragons the ball right back.

According to Anderson and Michel, it was a much needed confidence boost for a defense that had allowed 30 or more points in each of the Wildcats' five losses.

"Sometimes it's good to be a little lucky," Michel said. "Coach (Randy) Awrey prepared us well this week with the routes they like to do. I was just kind of sitting on it and waiting for them to do what they did. The D-line was getting pressure and making them throw errant passes so we just capitalized on it."

Wildcat senior quarterback Carter Kopach finished 14-of-20 passing for 131 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions before being relieved by junior college transfer Cody Scepaniak late in the third quarter with NMU up 45-3.

Kopach hit junior tight end Brent Parrett for a 1-yard TD in the second quarter and sophomore Christian Jessie for a 10-yard TD in the third quarter.

Mortensen threw his TD pass after taking a handoff from junior running back Prince Young, faking the reverse and hitting sophomore Julian Gaines from 11 yards out in the second quarter.

Young and Scepaniak both rushed in a pair of 1-yard touchdowns, while sophomore Nick Awrey punched in a score from 4 yards out.

Young finished with 91 yards on 21 carries after rushing for over 100-yards in back-to-back games the previous two weeks.

As a team, NMU gained 280 yards on 58 carries, a season high.

"Prince is just getting better every week and up front they are doing a great job," Kopach said. "Defensively they are getting the ball and letting us run the ball. It's a total team effort and Prince is really flourishing getting more reps and more carries."



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