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Northern Michigan University Wildcats football team keeps up for 3 quarters before falling in Texas, 40-24

MIDLAND, Texas — When one thinks of West Texas, heat and football under the lights are probably the two of the first things that come to mind.

On Saturday night, the Northern Michigan University squad got to experience both as the Wildcats tangled with Texas-Permian Basin.

At kickoff, the temperature was in the high 80s, but in the end, it wasn’t the heat that burned the Wildcats.

It was the Falcons’ passing game as the Wildcats gave up 358 yards through the air and fell to TPB 40-24.

NMU (1-1) pulled within six of the Falcons in the fourth quarter, but then gave up 10 points to quash any hopes of a comeback.

TPB (2-0) got on the scoreboard first on a 12-yard touchdown run by Kameron Mathis, but Northern answered back with a short TD run by Tyshon King and tied the game 7-7. The teams also exchanged turnovers in the quarter, so neither squad was particularly sharp early.

That changed in the second quarter as the Falcons lived up to their name and took to the air, torching the Wildcats secondary for an 80-yard scoring pass. Receiver Kobe Robinson got a step behind the NMU secondary, caught a pass from Taylor Null and ran untouched into the end zone. However, the extra point was missed and TPB led 13-7.

Northern got lit up again on TPB’s next possession as the Falcons marched downfield quickly with their passing game. The 95-yard drive was capped off with a diving 19-yard TD pass reception by Kyle McBride.

Needing a score to go into the half with some momentum, the Wildcats got it in the closing seconds.

Quarterback Ryan Johnson scrambled for a 15-yard first down to get the ball deep into TPB territory and then hooked up with Ben Loutsis on the far sideline with a pass that brought the ball to the Falcons 1. On the next play with 11 seconds left, Johnson rolled out and hit Ravon Johnson with a TD pass, cutting the Wildcats’ deficit to 20-14 at the half.

The ‘Cats took that momentum into the second half as they scored on their first possession of the third quarter. Johnson connected with Connor Bruinius for a 31-yard pass to get the ball to the TPB 33, and after a penalty hit Loutsis with a 22-yard pass. King then finished off the drive with a 11-yard score and with the extra point, Northern held its first lead of the game at 21-20.

However, TPB wasn’t shaken as it got a 25-yard field goal from Hayden Decossas to snatch the lead back and closed out the quarter with a 7-yard touchdown run by Marquis Simmons. The Falcons used their passing game again to get the ball downfield and Simmons ran untouched up the middle to finish off the possession.

The Wildcats had a great opportunity to get into the end zone themselves to start the fourth, but things didn’t end the way they had hoped. NMU’s drive started off great as King broke free up the middle for a 75-yard run to bring the ball to the TPB 23. Northern eventually got the ball down to the Falcons 1, but was stuffed on second and third down and had to settle for a field goal by Daniel Riser.

Down 30-24, NMU still had a chance to come back. It forced the Falcons to kick a field goal on their next possession to keep the margin manageable, but when the Wildcats got the ball back, Johnson was sacked on fourth down. TPB then put the game away on an 11-yard TD run by Gabe Nelson with 2:41 remaining.

The Wildcats return home this week, opening up GLIAC play with their homecoming game against Davenport on Saturday afternoon.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Writer Ryan Stieg. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.