MARQUETTE - Members of the Northern Michigan University football team breathed a collective sigh of relief Saturday after a 33-21 home GLIAC win over Wayne State - it's first triumph since the season-opener.
"I can't tell you how excited we are as a football program," head coach Chris Ostrowsky said. "We're just so proud of these guys and the way they hung in there and stayed together."
The victory marks the first collegiate win for NMU true freshman quarterback Shaye Brown in his second start. Brown filled in at quarterback after senior Cody Scepaniak and junior transfer Dustin Thomas suffered season-ending injuries.
Northern Michigan University's Wyatt Jurasin (41) of Marquette charges through the arms of Wayne State University's Steve O'Shell for NMU's first touchdown of the afternoon Saturday at the Superior Dome in Marquette. Jurasin scored three touchdowns in Northern’s 33-21 GLIASC victory. (Journal photo by Jenna Thompson)
"The one thing we talk about as a quarterback corps is preparation and how important it is to understand the product that we're going to face," Ostrowsky said. "Shaye's football intelligence is through the roof for his age."
The Warriors kicked off the scoring when QB Carl Roscoe found Dominique Maybanks with a 37-yard touchdown pass with 6:15 remaining in the first quarter.
A 48-yard NMU kick return by freshman DeMarco Haynes set the offense up. With 3:07 left in the first, the 'Cats responded with tying touchdown on a 1-yard rush from sophomore Wyatt Jurasin of Marquette.
Jurasin, who played for Ishpeming High School, led the Wildcats in rushing with 122 yards on 31 attempts Saturday, followed by redshirt freshman Keon Collier with 43 yards on 15 attempts.
"I knew that we had to be committed to running the football," Ostrowsky said. "Wyatt did a tremendous job being the workhorse today.
"And I thought Collier really complemented Wyatt, so it was a good one-two punch."
The Wildcats and Warriors traded possession four times before NMU freshman kicker John Oberheide made a field goal to put the 'Cats up 10-7 in the second quarter.
On their next possession, the Warriors were unable to capitalize and the ball was punted to the 'Cats. Senior Christian Jessie gained 43 yards on a pass completion from Brown.
In three rushes, Jurasin found the end zone for his second touchdown of the first half and the Wildcats went into halftime up 17-7.
"The size of those holes were absolutely huge," Jurasin said. "The line did a great job."
Early in the second half, a Wildcat fumble was recovered by Wayne State's Antwon Robinson. Warriors QB Doug Griffin found a hole in the NMU defense and rushed 54 yards for a touchdown, narrowing the Wildcats' lead to 17-14.
The 'Cats extended their advantage with a 37-yard field goal - again from Oberheide - at the end of the third quarter.
In less than a minute of playing time following the field goal, the Wildcats regained possession on an interception from sophomore Thomas McNamara.
"Our coaches have a great game plan for us," said junior defensive lineman Jordan Adediran of Gwinn. "They put in a lot of work and put us in position to make great plays."
With 12:48 remaining in the fourth quarter, Brown found Jurasin in the end zone on a 10-yard pass, giving the 'Cats a 27-14 lead.
"I have to thank the coaching staff because that was a drawn-up play," Jurasin said. "I can't tell you what it's called or what we do, but coach 'O' designed that play for exactly what happened."
The Warriors had possession for the kickoff and two drives before Roscoe was sacked by redshirt freshman Adam Williams, forcing a fumble.
Junior Trever Kruzel scooped up the ball and ran 7 yards into the end zone for a touchdown at 12:03, increasing the Wildcats' lead to 33-14.
The Wildcats recorded four sacks by three different players throughout the game for a total of 27 lost Warrior yards. Williams also led the 'Cats in tackles with eight total.
"Around 12 minutes in the fourth, I realized we were winning by a lot and I started getting excited," Brown said. "I don't know if I've ever been that excited playing football."
Wayne State scored once more on a 1-yard rush from Chet Privett with 6:11 remaining, bringing the final score to 33-21 in favor of NMU.
After five consecutive losses, the Wildcats' win improves their record to 2-5 overall and in the GLIAC.
NMU hopes to carry this momentum into next week's matchup against Northwood in the Wildcats' last home game of the season. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. on Saturday from the Superior Dome.
Delaney Lovett can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org