Northern Michigan University Wildcats football team looking to regroup back home

Northern Michigan University’s Jake Mayon, center right, dodges a Davenport tackler on Sept. 23 at the Superior Dome in Marquette. (Journal photo by Corey Kelly)

Saturday’s game: Saginaw Valley State at NMU, 1 p.m.; Radio: WUPT 100.3 FM

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MARQUETTE — The last few weeks have been rough for the Northern Michigan University football team.

The Wildcats (1-5, 1-4 GLIAC) came up just short of ending a long losing streak to rival Michigan Tech, got blown out at home against Ashland and were competitive last weekend against Tiffin before the Dragons pulled away in the fourth quarter.

The outcome against Tiffin was the same as last year, but significantly less terrible as the Wildcats lost 56-7 in the season finale last season, the final game in former head coach Chris Ostrowsky’s tenure.

“As far as how the game went, we played really good in parts and really bad in other parts. One mistake or one play that wasn’t executed right, it led to a lot of worse things. It was like a little snowball rolling and turned into a big snowball,” NMU head coach Kyle Nystrom said. “We did some good things on defense and did things that hurt us. Offensively at times, they couldn’t handle us, and at times, we couldn’t handle them.

“We’ve got a couple guys that were out of the game with injuries and some of them we aren’t going to get back for the rest of the year. So that’s the part that I don’t like, but that’s football.”

When asked if he felt the team improved from the Ashland game to Tiffin, Nystrom said he did. But he also doesn’t believe in moral victories.

“It went better and we’re better,” he said. “There’s no moral victories in a loss. That’s the way I live. I know that we didn’t get blown out.

“It was a tight game and at the time where it was tied up and we had momentum, we lost momentum. We didn’t get across the fence to push the game where we wanted it to get pushed. So we’ve just got to keep fighting.

“I told them (his players) the last two weeks that you have to have the will and the fight to deserve to win a game. If you don’t have that, you don’t deserve to win. You have to think that way and go about your business that way. That’s our message to them.

“You’ve got to prepare and when it comes to game time, your inner drive and your mental state needs to be at a higher level than your opponent to put yourself in a position to win. Until we do that, we’re not going to win.”

One positive that did come out of the Tiffin loss was running back Jake Mayon’s performance. Mayon rushed for 219 yards, the third time he’s had 200 yards this season.

Nystrom praised his bruising back and said that he has many great attributes as a runner.

“He’s hard to tackle, he’s got a lot of initial quickness and he’s got a lot of body power,” Nystrom said. “Even though he’s not a real big person for a back, it’s hard to get him off his feet.

“He’s got good vision and good lateral movement and quickness, so he’s hard to deal with. People bounce off him, too.

“It takes a toll on him after every game, so it takes a few days to get him ready to go. When you have a player that’s carrying that kind of workload and taking that much contact, they all get like that.”

This Saturday, Northern will not only need Mayon to be strong, but its passing game as well.

The Wildcats take on Saginaw Valley State (3-4, 1-4) and the Cardinals have had mixed results.

SVSU’s defense is second in the GLIAC and it excels against the run. Offensively, the Cardinals like to mix things up with running and passing plays, so it’ll be another tough battle for the NMU defense.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.