Will it come to an end? NMU looks to end long losing streak against Tech
MARQUETTE — One losing streak is over for the Northern Michigan University football team, but the Wildcats still have another they want to end.
Last week, NMU hammered NAIA foe Lawrence Tech 65-7 in a game where a lot of underclassmen got a chance to play. It ended Northern’s five-game skid while allowing players to remain sharp instead of sitting through a bye week.
“It was good for us to play that game,” Northern head coach Kyle Nystrom said. “There’s a couple factors in that. When you have an open date that deep into the season, it’s very difficult to find a game. Our people did a great job of finding somebody that had an open date.
“I’d rather play a game than sit it out because our team needs games to get better.”
The Wildcats definitely showed signs that they’ve improved and they’ll need that as they try to end what is perhaps a more meaningful streak.
Northern (2-6) will now try to stop a seven-game losing streak to rival Michigan Tech on Saturday that has included some heartbreaking losses.
In 2014, NMU lost on a last-second field goal at home. In 2015, the Wildcats lost by one point on the road, and in 2016, they tied the game in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter, but fell short in the second overtime.
But this could be the year that all of those bad memories come to an end. Tech is only 3-5 and has only one GLIAC victory, making this a fairly even matchup, at least on paper.
Not only that, but the Huskies are coming off a 20-point loss to Ashland, and after facing them last season, NMU head coach Kyle Nystrom knows what to expect now.
“Both teams are very similar and both have (had) our hiccups that we have to overcome,” Nystrom said during Tuesday’s press conference. “Both teams are pretty similar. They play really hard and are high-effort teams and they have to be to have a chance.
“And that’s OK and I think that’s a good thing. Nothing in life that anybody’s ever had that was really valuable didn’t come without really hard work and commitment. It just makes it that much better.
“They’re a real high-IQ offense that’s befitting them because of the kind of student-athletes that they get and the academic rigor at Tech. They do a ton of things and a ton of different formations, a lot of adjustments to run their base package, which is really good.
“So they really make you work and I give them a lot of credit because they can execute everything because they’re very high-IQ players. For us, we’ve got to be able to match that to have success.”
When it comes to Tech’s offense, Nystrom focused on how the Huskies are solid both in the backfield and at wide receiver.
He feels the key to ending their losing streak to Tech comes down to the basics.
“They’ve got some nice players on offense,” he said. “They’ve gone through a little bit of adjustments at running back and they’re playing a young freshman (Jared Smith) from Pewamo-Westphalia. I remember him when he came out and he’s the guy playing right now and he’s done a nice job.
“They’ve got a good fullback, a young man from Alpena (Jordan Ferguson) and he’s a dominant player. So we’re going to have to match up and be as physical and violent as he plays, because he does that.
“They’ve done a nice job with their wideouts. They’ve got several, but No. 2 (Jacob Wenzlick) and No. 5 (Ben Hartley) stand out to me.
“(Wenzlick has) made a lot of plays and they feature him. They do a lot of things to get him touches. Hartley has been a good player for them with the deep ball and the passing game. They’ve got some weapons, so you’ve got to be able to handle them.
“It’s going to be really simple. Who is going to play the hardest? Who is going to have the best effort and at the same time, who is going to execute the best?
“We know our issues and they know their issues. So who can overcome their issues the best. So it’s going to be a fun game and I can’t wait. I love preparing and like I told you last week, my favorite part of the week is being on the practice field with the players and getting them ready and going through journey to Saturday.
“It ought to be a humdinger. It’s going to be something, so I look forward to it.”
Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.