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Wildcats fight off foe

MARQUETTE – Last weekend, the Northern Michigan University football Wildcats lost a heartbreaker to archrival Michigan Tech.

Saturday, they attempted to redeem themselves against Saginaw Valley State. It wasn’t pretty and they needed a game-saving defensive play on a two-point conversion, but the Wildcats emerged victorious 36-34 at the Superior Dome.

NMU quarterback Shaye Brown led the Wildcats with 216 yards and two touchdowns.

“I think when you look back on a season, you have to win games like this,” NMU head coach Chris Ostrowsky said. “We haven’t done that here and it’s clearly different.

“You don’t win any games in the first quarter. It’s a four-quarter football game and I think we did a good job of understanding at halftime that there’s got to be some changes schematically.

“I’m proud of those guys in the locker room. They work hard to win and be a part of this football program. It’s only the start. We’re scratching the surface of how good we’re going to be.

“It was an exciting win today and we’ll take it and go back to work (today),” he added.

NMU came out on top despite losing in the major offensive categories, especially in regard to rushing yards as the Cardinals outgained the Wildcats 241-60.

Both offenses struggled to move the ball in the first quarter, both on the ground.

NMU had the first big offensive play when Brown hit Keyondre Craig with a 55-yard pass play. Soon after, Brown pitched the ball to Aaron Harris, who ran up the middle for a 10-yard touchdown. NMU led 7-0 at the end of the quarter.

Early in the second quarter, Saginaw used its power rushing attack to move deep into NMU territory. The Cardinals also converted on fourth down during the series and Saginaw tied the game on a 15-yard pass from Brad Odeman Jr. to Max Corcoran.

Saginaw took the lead with 3:52 left in the first half. Drew Herrell, who finished with 110 yards, weaved his way up the middle of the field for a 14-yard run.

NMU answered on its next drive. After a long kickoff return by Marcus Tucker, Brown found Terrance Dye for an 18-yard first down. Later, the junior signal caller took the ball into the end zone himself on a 1-yard run. However, the extra point failed and NMU went into the half down 14-13.

NMU took the lead again early in the third quarter. After the Wildcats’ defense made a fourth down stop, Brown hit Austin Young of Escanaba with a short pass near the left sideline.

It appeared to be for a short gain, but Young managed to break two tackles and sprint down the line for a 49-yard score. NMU also got the two-point conversion and led 21-14.

Saginaw shook off the NMU touchdown by putting together a long drive, this time with its passing game. Odeman Jr. found Bryan Fobbs for a 22-yard first down and then hit Hobbs again, who made a circus catch in the end zone, to tie the game at 21-21.

From that point on, the game was determined by two plays. The first was on NMU’s next possession.

After Brown threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Paris Woods, backup quarterback JT Jurasin scrambled right on the two-point conversion, broke two tackles and dove into the end zone, just getting the ball across the line before he was taken down.

As a result, NMU took a 29-21 lead and the Wildcats stayed ahead the rest of the game.

“I loved it,” Ostrowsky said. “He (Jurasin) got the game ball today, no question about it. That’s the ‘Oh, baby’ play for us. “You’ve got to have guys make special plays and that was a great football play.”

The other came in the closing seconds in the contest. After Saginaw pulled to within two points of the Wildcats on a touchdown pass with 23 seconds left, NMU defensive back Keshawn Walker knocked the ball away from a Cardinals receiver in the corner of the end zone on a two-point try to preserve the win.

Walker figured Saginaw was going to test him on the two-point conversion and welcomed the challenge.

“I knew at the end that they were going to try to go my way,” Walker said. “I’m happy when the play is coming my way because I’m a good defensive back, so I know I’m going to make a stop if it comes my way.”

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 06-228-2500, ext. 246. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.