MARQUETTE - Following Northern Michigan University's annual spring football game at the Superior Dome on Saturday, first-year Wildcat head coach Chris Ostrowsky emphasized the work is far from over for his squad, despite the spring season coming to a close with the intrasquad scrimmage.
His Wildcats still have a week of classes, followed by a week of exams.
Then there are Ostrowsky's two quarterbacks, who on top of that have a whole summer ahead of studying film and playbooks in hopes of winning the starting job come Aug. 30 when NMU kicks off the 2012 season at Findlay.
Northern Michigan University quarterback Cody Scepaniak, left, hands the ball off to running back Joe Neeb during the second quarter of the NMU spring football game on Saturday at the Superior Dome in Marquette. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
"Ryan and I will obviously get the guys together and work on routes, footwork and timing," NMU junior quarterback Cody Scepaniak said about his summer. "That's basically what it comes down to is timing. Ryan and I will put in a lot of work with the guys and watch film and we'll be ready to go when falls comes."
Both Scepaniak and "Ryan" - redshirt freshman Ryan Morley - completed around 31 percent of their passes Saturday, according to unofficial stats, to lead the offense over the defense, 42-38, using a scoring system yanked straight from the pages of a fantasy football guide.
The offense received one point for first downs and extra points, two points for 2-point conversions and plays over 20 yards, three points for a field goal and six points for a touchdown.
The defense earned one point for tackles for a loss and turnovers on downs; two points for sacks, safeties and defensive stops; five points for interceptions and fumble recoveries; and 10 points for touchdowns.
Northern's defense, under new defensive coordinator Brian Newberry, was able to contain the offense's rushing attack - coordinated by offensive line coach Rob Boss - to rack up points for lost yardage and halted drives, while also producing two turnovers.
Senior wide receiver Sam Celentino was stripped after catching a 10-yard pass from Scepaniak while sophomore defensive back and temporary punter and kicker Brady Grayvold of Norway was able to reel in an interception after Morley's pass was tipped high into the air.
For Ostrowsky, it was a good day for a defense that was missing three key players in senior linebacker Eddie Knoblock, junior defensive lineman Zach Anderson and junior linebacker Josh Droese.
"I think they are doing great, really great," Ostrowsky said. "I thought they executed at times and came up some critical turnovers.
"Defensively, I'm really pleased with the way they are progressing."
Morley actually finished with an unofficial completion percentage two thousandths of a point better than Scepaniak, hitting 10 of 22 passes for 156 yards with an interception and two touchdowns.
Morley took one sack, one delay-of-game penalty and gained 26 yards on a pair of scrambles.
Morley hit redshirt freshman wide receiver Trey Hipke for a 28-yard TD pass in the second quarter working with the second unit and sophomore wideout Josh McNeil caught a 35-yard scoring pass from Morley in the fourth quarter as part of the No. 1 offense.
"It's nice to get out there and run with the guys and actually move the ball, move the chains and get first downs," Morley said after spending all of the fall on the sidelines.
"This summer I definitely have to get stronger and bigger, just like every summer. The timing with the receivers will be the biggest thing, just getting together to throw."
Scepaniak didn't find the end zone Saturday, but his 51-yard pass to McNeil in the first quarter did set up a 5-yard touchdown run by redshirt freshman running back Joe Neeb, who also ran in a 2-point conversion in the fourth quarter.
Scepaniak was 3 for 3 on the scoring drive for 69 yards, plus a sack.
"Coach O has put a lot of time into Ryan and I and we both went out there and played a great game," Scepaniak said. "The offensive line, this is the best they looked all spring. Overall I was very happy, not just with my success, but everybody's success today."
Scepaniak, who is in his second spring season after transferring from Alfred State College in New York last winter, finished 9 of 20 passing for 133 yards with no interceptions. He was sacked twice and gained a yard on his one scramble.
His second sack came with under two minutes to play in the red zone and had junior defensive back Brandon Parson held onto an errant pass thrown his way by Scepaniak on the final play of the game, the defense would have edged the offense by a point.
Ostrowsky said the battle between the two QBs - who rotated with the No. 1 and 2 units Saturday - remains close and as he said earlier in the week leading up to the spring game, NMU will wait until August to declare a starter.
"I thought today (the QBs) executed the best they have all spring long," Ostrowsky said. "I thought they had some key third-down gets, which we had been lacking. I thought they handled themselves with great poise."
Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org