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Wildcats sunk on last-gasp blocked field goal

By Journal Sports Staff

HOUGHTON – For the second straight year, a field goal attempt on the final play of the game decided the winner between the Northern Michigan University and Michigan Tech football teams.

While last year’s MTU field goal broke a tie, this year on Saturday night NMU’s Ryan LaBerge had a 45-yard field goal blocked with no time remaining to preserve the Huskies’ 24-23 victory at their home Sherman Field.

While the hosts held the lead throughout the first half, the game see-sawed several times after the intermission.

Northern took its first lead not quite five minutes into the second half when Keyondre Craig caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Shaye Brown. With LaBerge’s extra-point kick, NMU led 14-10.

The Wildcats padded it 20-10 with 2:34 left in the third when Brandon Auguste returned an interception 40 yards to paydirt. But the extra-point kick LaBerge missed loomed large by game’s end.

Tech narrowed its deficit to three, 20-17, just barely more than a minute into the fourth quarter on a John Williams’ 4-yard TD run. Josh King booted the second of his three extra-point kicks, too.

LaBerge extended Northern’s lead to six points, 23-17, with a 33-yard field goal he booted with 8:16 to go.

Tech then drove 75 yards in about six minutes with a go-ahead TD when David Walter caught a 7-yard scoring pass from QB Brandon Cowie with 2:10 to go. King’s PAT kick gave the Huskies a 24-23 lead.

With the ensuing kickoff going into the end zone, NMU took over at its own 25 with 130 seconds left. Brown drove the Wildcats to the Tech 28-yard-line with three seconds left, setting up LaBerge for a kick necessarily low to make it the distance.

MTU held a narrow 377-360 advantage in total yards, though NMU had a hefty 299-191 margin through the air as Brown was 24 of 32 with two TDs and one interception. Crowie was 21 of 27, also with two TDs and a pick.

Keyondre Craig led all pass catchers with nine receptions for 164 yards and a TD, while Tech’s Kevin Miller led rushers with 78 yards in 17 carries. NMU had just 61 yards on the ground, 36 by Terrance Dye in five tries.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. He can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252, or via email at sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.