Northern Michigan University football team shot down by Quincy, Wildcats ex-quarterback Drake Davis in 45-27 loss

Mariano Valenti

QUINCY, Ill. — The Northern Michigan University football team found itself in a second-half shootout and couldn’t keep up as the Wildcats fell to 0-4 with a 45-27 setback at Quincy University on Saturday afternoon.

After a scoreless first quarter, NMU trailed just 14-10 at halftime, but the Hawks (3-1) put up another 31 points in the second half, led by former Northern quarterback Drake Davis.

Davis finished by completing 25 of 40 passes for 352 yards, which included three touchdown passes, an interception and a rushing TD.

It negated the return of current NMU starting signal caller Mariano Valenti, a transfer from NCAA Division I Temple. Valenti, who was out injured last week, had numbers that were just as impressive as Davis’ as he completed 34 of 49 for 368 yards, two TDs, one pickoff and a rushing score.

While many of the statistics were fairly even, NMU lost two fumbles while Quincy didn’t lose any.

The Hawks outgained Northern by a modest margin, 480-441 in total yards, as Quincy had 128 yards rushing to 73 for NMU.

The Wildcats also had one more first down, 26-25, and 24 more seconds in time of possession, while both teams scored on each of the five red-zone possessions it had.

Valenti’s favorite target was Sam Peiffer, who made nine pass receptions for 94 yards and a TD, while four more NMU receivers each had at least four catches — Michael Love made four receptions for 81 yards, Tyquan Cox five for 66, Franko Williams six for 55 and Kyle Sahr four for 23.

On the ground, Cox led Northern with 70 yards in 16 carries. Valenti also had 16 carries, but for just two net yards as he was sacked four times for 37 yards in losses.

Davis’ favorite target was Travis Isaac, who had eight snags for 107 yards and a TD, while on the ground, Davis proved his worth as he did at NMU, gaining 53 yards in 11 tries, a yardage number matched by teammate JQ Brown, who did it in 13 carries with two TDs.

On defense, Jax Hertel and Mitch Larkin led Northern with nine tackles apiece as Hertel had that unit’s only turnover, an interception, along with a tackle for loss.

Jake Price had the Wildcats’ only QB sack — an 11-yard loss — while also forcing Quincy’s only fumble, and Kade Manzo had two pass breakups to go with six tackles.

Offensively, the game started slowly as each team had the ball twice in the first quarter without scoring. But NMU’s final drive of the opening period netted a 39-yard field goal by Michael Karlen on the first play of quarter No. 2 for the visitors’ only lead of the day, 3-0.

That might’ve aroused the Hawks out of their slumber, as on their ensuing possession, Davis completed four passes for a total of 78 yards, culminating in a 39-yard TD toss to Jalen Lawrence. With the first of six PAT kicks by Michael Owens, Quincy led 7-3 with 12:44 left in the first half.

Then the Northern defense had to stiffen — and did. The Wildcats’ next two possessions ended quickly with lost fumbles by Noah Hofmann and Valenti inside the NMU 30-yard line.

But the Northern “D” stopped Quincy without a first down each time in NMU territory. The Hawks did try a 43-yard field goal that missed after one of those possessions.

Eventually, though, the Hawks got the ball back and marched 80 yards, the final 42 yards on a pair of Davis’ rushes that ended in his 12-yard TD run with 5:07 left in the half to make it 14-3.

Quincy was driving again before the first half ended with a chance to put the first nail in NMU’s coffin. But Hertel intercepted a Davis pass with 2:13 to go and returned it 26 yards to the NMU 44 to set up the offense in excellent position.

Valenti & Co. responded, with the QB throwing five straight passes, the last one for 40 yards to Love that got the ball a yard from the goal line with time running down. On the next play, Valenti took the shotgun snap and finished off the drive with his feet, and with Karlen’s extra point, Northern trailed by just four points at halftime.

Though NMU ground down the clock and the Hawks’ defense to start the second half, Quincy proved too potent after that with Davis at the helm.

The Wildcats took the second-half kickoff and marched 87 yards in over six minutes before facing fourth-and-goal at the Quincy 3. Karlen came in to kick a short 20-yard field goal and Northern trailed just 14-13.

But the Hawks were never stopped in the second half, scoring on all five of their possessions after the intermission — four TDs and a field goal.

That included a 4-yard TD run by Davis and 5-yard scoring scamper by Brown that made it 28-13 by the end of the third.

Northern wasn’t done yet, though, as Valenti went 5 for 5 passing on the next possession that spanned the third and fourth quarters, ending in a 7-yard TD toss to Cox on the first play of the final period. Karlen’s PAT kick pulled NMU back to within 28-20.

Though the Hawks were held to a 35-yard Owens field goal on their next drive, making it 31-20, it was the last time Quincy was kept out of the end zone.

NMU added one last touchdown in the final 30 seconds on a Valenti 5-yard scoring pass to Peiffer for the final margin.

The Wildcats remain on the road for the next two weeks as they open the GLIAC season with the unenviable task of playing at two-time defending NCAA Division II national champion Ferris State at 3 p.m. Saturday.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.


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