MARQUETTE - Once again with a 1-5 record and Wayne State coming to the Superior Dome on Oct. 26, Northern Michigan University head football coach Chris Ostrowsky was asked two days prior to the game if his football team could make a similar run down the stretch like it did in 2012 when it won three of its last five games.
Having just gotten beat at Grand Valley State by 31 points playing with a third-string, true freshman quarterback, Ostrowsky hesitated before finally giving an answer.
"I don't know," Ostrowsky said. "I'd like to think we can win them all. I know our kids are working at it. It'd be a hell of an accomplishment and a hell of a deal for the program."
Two weeks later, the Wildcats are halfway to doing what Ostrowsky said he was unsure the team could do following wins over the Warriors and Northwood on Nov. 2 at the Superior Dome in Marquette.
Ostrowsky was again asked following the win over the Timberwolves if NMU can put together a stretch run similar to 2012. This time, there was less hesitation, a smile and more confidence in his still humble answer.
"We've won two with two more to go," Ostrowsky said. "We'll do the best we can."
Northern, now at 3-5 overall, hits the road for the final two weeks of the season, starting with a 1 p.m. GLIAC game on Saturday at Saginaw Valley State.
The Cardinals were one of the three teams - along with Northwood and Grand Valley State - to fall to the Wildcats in the final five weeks of the 2012 regular season with NMU scoring 17 fourth quarter points to rally past the Cardinals 33-28 at the Superior Dome.
The win proved costly for SVSU, who not only missed out on winning the GLIAC North Division title outright - it shared the crown with GVSU, Michigan Tech and Hillsdale - but a shot at an NCAA playoff berth.
Once again the Cardinals are alone atop the GLIAC North Division this season, but at 8-0 are two games clear of second-place Ferris State, who just had its coach suspended for eight days because of an incident Oct. 26 at Michigan Tech.
The Wildcats could still spoil SVSU (8-0 in GLIAC, 8-1 overall) season, however, with a win Saturday since the Cardinals are tied with undefeated South Division leader Ohio Dominican (7-0, 8-0) for the outright conference title.
The Panthers and Cardinals also sit No. 2 and 3, respectively, in the latest NCAA Super Region Four rankings to determine who gets into the NCAA Division II tournament.
"It's going to be exciting," Ostrowsky said, declining to comment whether or not SVSU is out to avenge last year's loss in Marquette. "It's an exciting game to be a part of, no question about it. Hopefully that's why you play in the GLIAC. We're looking to go down there and have some fun."
Northern defeated SVSU a year ago with a veteran quarterback under center in Cody Scepaniak, but he and three other Wildcats QBs are out for the season with injuries, leaving just the kid who made his first collegiate start on Oct. 19 at GVSU in true freshman Shaye Brown.
Since the 31-point loss in which Brown complete 14 of 22 passes for 168 yards, a touchdown and interception, the rookie QB has completed 36 of 57 passes for 451 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.
Brown has also gotten strong rushing support from sophomore back Wyatt Jurasin out of Ishpeming High School who has rushed for over 100 yards and two touchdowns in back-to-back games.
"It's been a lot," Ostrowsky said. "Wyatt has been great, our offensive line has been excellent. I think we've found a good combination up front. Our wide receivers are making plays and catching the ball. That's a talented group.
"Our special teams is doing good things. Our defense is keeping us in games, playing well and playing physical. It's been a fun three weeks."