Northern Michigan University football team takes over in 2nd half for 42-14 win over Post University
MARQUETTE — It was clear from the beginning that the Northern Michigan University football team was superior to its homecoming opponent on Saturday afternoon.
While the Wildcats made it difficult on themselves with three turnovers in the first half, in the end they overwhelmed first-time opponent Post University of Waterbury, Connecticut, 42-14, to celebrate their homecoming.
NMU seemed to score at will after halftime, when it only had a 14-7 lead, to improve to 2-2.
The ‘Cats gained 566 yards offense compared to Post’s 159, controlling the game from the get-go. But two fumbles, an interception and multiple penalties stymied the Wildcats’ momentum in the first half.
“The first half was nothing that I wanted to see,” NMU head coach Kyle Nystrom said. “We said some things in the locker room (at halftime) that their parents probably wouldn’t want to hear, but I was much happier in the second half.
“The second half was much more productive and executed much better than the first half.”
NMU started out with the ball and immediately started churning out a promising drive. Running back Tyshon King was the focal point early, making two big runs while quarterback Drake Davis added another.
Another big play, a bubble screen from Davis to Brendan Sersaw, put the Wildcats into the red zone. But on the first play inside the Post 20-yard line, King put the ball fumbled a handoff as Post recovered for the first turnover.
The teams traded three-and-outs before NMU got the ball back for its third time. Davis had left the game due to injury on the previous possession, and Zach Keen came in and ran the offense for the remainder of the way.
Capping off a six-play, 65-yard drive, Keen delivered with a deep bomb to Wyatt Davis for a 44-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-long.
The Wildcats scored again just 4 1/2 minutes later early in the second quarter, when Keen made a relatively short pass to wideout Kenyon’TA Skinner, who did the rest breaking and avoiding tackles and getting downfield for a 75-yard TD.
Down 14-0, Post tried to get back in the game. On third and long inside NMU territory, Eagles quarterback Broghean McGovern’s pass to Roberto Salas initially looked like a completed catch for first down, but the officials ruled it incomplete after conferring.
The Eagles inexplicably decided to go for it on 4th-and-15, and McGovern’s pass was too deep and incomplete. But Northern’s John McMullen was called for a back-breaking roughing the passer penalty to keep the ball in the visitors’ hands.
The penalty loomed large after the Eagles scored on a 10-yard 4th-down scramble by McGovern 5:39 before halftime.
On NMU’s ensuing possession, Keen ran up the middle and fumbled for his team’s second turnover, giving Post the ball at the NMU 33. The Eagles tested the Wildcats deep several times without success, then McGovern got greedy on another deep pass that was intercepted in the end zone by the Wildcats’ Tavion McCarthy.
NMU had one possession left before the half to try and extend the lead and marched quickly downfield with a 34-yard pass up the seam from Keen to Sersaw. With the ball on the 20 with less than a minute left, Keen’s pass over the middle to King was overthrown and intercepted in the end zone by the Eagles’ Antwan Walden. Despite outgaining Post 204-80 in the first half, the ‘Cats only held a 14-7 halftime lead.
“To be honest with you, we won’t be able to play in the league if we played like we did in the first half in the league games,” Nystrom said. “We won’t be able to play like that and win, we won’t be able to get back into the game if we play like that against our league. I’m irritated with the first half, but I’m pleased with the second half.”
Post opened the second half with a three-and-out, while the Wildcats went on a six-play drive that covered 51 yards for a score.
After spreading the ball around with completions to Wyatt Davis, Jimmy Martin and Tyquan Cox, Keen found Davis again for his second TD catch of the game with a toe-tap catch in the back of the end zone from 16 yards away.
The Eagles fumbled the ball away after the ensuing kickoff, and Sersaw took it 49 yards for a long return into Post territory.
However, after another discussion by the refs, they ruled that Sersaw fumbled the ball at the end of the play, giving the ball right back to Post.
That was about the only play that could slow NMU in the second half, as another punt by the Eagles gave the ball right back to Northern.
On the third play of the following drive, King ripped off a 59-yard run down the sideline for a TD. Up 28-7 with 5:24 left in the third, that run seemed to put the game out of reach.
To begin the fourth quarter, NMU went on another long drive, capped off by a 6-yard scoring run by Brock Franklin to make it 35-7. Post finally showed it could put a drive together without NMU helping them out. The Eagles flew down the field with a 10-play drive, and McGovern scored his second rushing TD with a 7-yard run. With 6:20 left trailing 35-14, the desperation onside kick was recovered by the Wildcats.
With the ball at midfield, King broke another big run for 43 yards down to the 7, and Keen scored on the next play by running the ball in.
It was an up-and-down first half for Keen with the two turnovers but also two TD passes. He finished 16 of 24 passing for 311 yards and three touchdowns, while adding the late rushing TD.
Nystrom has said before that he didn’t view Keen as the backup quarterback, but just one of the QBs who can play.
With that being said, he had no reservations about Keen going in to run the offense.
“He (Keen) did good, he was out of sync early when we got going, but I thought in the second half we settled right in,” Nystrom said. “He got in rhythm, he got comfortable and played really well. I was really happy with him on the last scoring drive, he did nice things.”
King totaled 172 rushing yards. Skinner had four catches for 105 yards and a TD, while Davis had 101 yards and two touchdowns on four catches.
The Wildcats go on the road to open the GLIAC portion of their schedule with a 6 p.m. Saturday game in Detroit at Wayne State.
Travis Nelson can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.