NMU gridders look to road for 2nd win

Northern Michigan University’s Callum Olpin runs for the ball, pursued by Northwood University’s Teddy Stacey Sunday afternoon, Sept. 17, 2017, at NMU. (Journal photo by Rachel Oakley)

MARQUETTE — The Northern Michigan University football team appears to be making progress in each of its games during the past few weeks.

But that improvement isn’t resulting in any victories as the Wildcats dropped another game last weekend to nationally ranked Grand Valley State.

The game was reasonably close through the first half and Northern (1-7, 1-6 GLIAC) was only down 7-3 heading into the second half, but then things started to click for the Lakers as they pulled away in the fourth quarter.

Looking back, NMU head coach Kyle Nystrom felt that his team accomplished quite a bit even though it came up short of winning.

However, he did emphasize the importance of finishing off opportunities, which is something the Wildcats have been struggling with all season.

“We did some good things during the game,” he said. “I think the secondary played really well.

“That’s the best I’ve seen anyone defend.

“We got some takeaways early on them and played pretty inspired football.

“I thought we had a lot of energy and we’re 7-3 with them at the half.

“Late in the third, we get the ball at their 1 and if we just finish what we started, we’re up 10-7 and where you want to be.

“We couldn’t hold on. The dam broke a little bit and we didn’t have the horsepower to keep up with them and that’s when the game got away.”

The Wildcats head out on the road for a game at noon today in Detroit against Wayne State.

The Warriors (3-6, 2-5) are similar to Northern on both sides of the ball. Wayne State tries to run an offense that is a mix of rushing and passing, but it hasn’t been very consistent this year.

The Warriors have a pretty good running back tandem with Romello Brown and D.J. Stinson and that will probably be what they will rely on today.

“They’re all over from game to game,” Nystrom said.

“Their running game is really good. He’s (Brown) a big guy and he’s got a lot of body power. He’s their ‘it’ factor.

“Stinson backs him up and he’s a good player, too.

“They’ll try to maul you up if you let them.

“I thought last year that they had the best O-line in the league, but a lot of those guys graduated, so they’re rebuilding there right now.

“They’re between quarterbacks, bouncing around, and they’re doing a lot of stuff scheme-wise.

“So for us to get ready for them, there’s a ton to get ready for. More so than you usually have.

“When you play Ashland or Grand Valley or Ferris, they do what they do and they’re good at it.

“So they’re not all over the place, but Wayne is giving us a lot of stuff to prepare for. So that’s what we have to do.”

Brown and Stinson may be solid, but neither is game-changing like Northern running back Jake Mayon. Mayon leads the league in rushing yards per game (130) and is facing a shaky Warriors’ run defense.

If the NMU offensive line can create some holes, Mayon could have a big game and the Wildcats could pick up that elusive second victory.

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