LaBerge kicks, Brown passes NMU to victory
MARQUETTE – Freshman kicker Ryan LaBerge made a prolific day by the Northern Michigan University offense pay off in the final 30 seconds on Saturday afternoon at the Superior Dome.
The L’Anse High School graduate kicked his fourth field goal of the day with 22 seconds left to lift the Wildcats to a 33-30 victory over GLIAC rival Wayne State.
The 24-yard boot broke a 30-30 tie after Northern trailed 20-10 at halftime and fell behind 30-27 with less than seven minutes remaining.
LaBerge, who finished by scoring 15 points Saturday, made three field goals in the fourth quarter alone from distances ranging from 22 to 25 yards.
The victory broke a streak of four straight losses by the Wildcats, all decided by seven points or less, as they improved to 2-5 overall and 1-5 in the GLIAC. Wayne State fell to 3-4 and 2-4.
“It feels awesome and it feels deserved, I will tell you that,” NMU head coach Chris Ostrowsky said. “I think we made some plays late to put ourselves in a position to win the game.
“I am really excited for the kids, I am excited for our players because they put so much work in for this and they believe so heartedly that we are on the right path and you have to get paid at some point.”
The win validated the career day for Northern sophomore quarterback Shaye Brown, who threw for a personal high of 346 yards.
He led Northern to a 440-yard day on offense, though that was only one more yard than Wayne State had.
In keeping with the back-and-forth nature of the game, the outcome wasn’t decided until NMU junior linebacker Loran Jaddou intercepted Wayne State QB Carl Roscoe near midfield with one second to go on a last-gasp chance to tie or win the game.
Brown completed 29 of 42 passes with no interceptions, no sacks and a five-yard touchdown pass to junior Terrance Dye with about 6 1/2 minutes elapsed in the third quarter.
Junior Marcus Tucker was the Wildcats’ leading receiver with 114 yards on six receptions, and he added 204 yards in six returns for 318 all-purpose yards.
Junior teammate Trey Hipke also made nine catches for 95 yards, while senior Kelvin Smarwt had five catches for 61 yards.
Junior Austin Young of Escanaba had four catches for 47 yards while also returning a punt 66 yards to WSU end zone just a few minutes after Brown’s TD pass. LaBerge’s ensuing extra-point kick gave Northern its first lead of the day, 24-23, with 6:48 to go in the third.
On the ground, NMU gained 94 yards, most by Ishpeming product Wyatt Jurasin as he had 22 carries for 68 yards, including a three-yard TD run late in the first half.
Wayne State opened the scoring with a Desmond Martin 20-yard TD near the midpoint of the first quarter. LaBerge answered with his first field goal of 20 yards about 4 1/2 minutes later, but the Warriors responded with field goals of 47 and 31 yards by Paul Graham in the second period to make it 13-3.
In the final two minutes before halftime, Jurasin scored his TD while WSU answered with a Roscoe-to-Jamel Hicks 37-yard scoring aerial to make it 20-10 at the break.
Graham upped the advantage to 23-10 with a 44-yard three-pointer before Dye and Young scored back-to-back TDs to get Northern the lead later in the third.
LaBerge put his team on top 27-23 with 10:52 to go before the Warriors’ Michael Johnson caught a nine-yard pass from Roscoe with 6:18 left to put the visitors ahead 30-27.
While Roscoe completed 14 of 30 passes for 241 yards, the Wildcats’ Brandon Auguste intercepted him once in NMU’s end zone on WSU’s first possession, while Jaddou had the one that effectively ended the game. Auguste also picked off another Warriors’ pass attempted by receiver Jamel Hicks early in the fourth quarter.
Northern’s only turnover was a fumble lost by Jurasin at the end of a 38-yard run about a minute into the game.
NMU senior linebacker Nick Krause and sophomore linebacker Dalton Stenberg led the NMU defense with seven solo tackles each, while Stenberg and Jordan Adediran of Gwinn each recorded a sack.
The Wildcats continue action at 1 p.m. Oct. 25 when they travel to GLIAC foe Ashland.
Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.