MARQUETTE, Mich. – The Northern Michigan University football team needed a little touch of home to break out if its two-game skid. That is exactly what the Wildcats got Saturday afternoon in the Superior Dome. Rockne Belmonte kicked a 31-yard field goal with less than five minutes left in the game to give the 'Cats a 22-20 win over the Ferris State Bulldogs.
NMU improves to 4-3 overall on the season and 4-2 in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC). Ferris falls to 5-2 and 5-1 GLIAC. Three of NMU's four wins have come at home this season.
The 'Cats wasted little time in getting on the scoreboard. NMU put up points on two of its first thee drives of the game. John Privitelli capped off an eighth-play 66-yard drive at 11:02 of the first quarter with a two-yard run. The extra point kick failed as the 'Cats were up 6-0. The Bulldogs answered with its first dive of the game. Tyler Thomas scampered in from23 yards out and with the good extra point took the 7-6 lead at 8:10. Also in the first quarter (3:06), Dustin Brancheau hauled in a 13-yard strike from Privitelli and with the good extra point the 'Cats took the lead back (13-7).
The Bulldogs struck first in the second quarter (14:19) when Aaron Olman caught a six-yard pass from Tom Schneider. The kick was good and the Bulldogs were up once again (14-13). Belmonte added a 51-yard field goal at 10:58 for a 16-14 score in NMU's favor. The field goal was a career-long for Belmonte. That is the way the first half ended.
Belmonte used his leg once again at 11:14 of the third quarter, this time he connected from 27 yards for a 19-14 score. The Bulldogs regained the lead later in the quarter (8:35) when Mike Ryan was on the receiving end of a 33-yard pass from Schneider. The two-point conversion failed, but Ferris was still leading (20-19).
Belmonte connected for his third field goal of the day at 4:16 of the fourth quarter for what turned out to be the game-winner (22-20).
Ferris had the edge in stats as the Bulldogs recorded 306 yards of total offense to 229 for the 'Cats. On the ground it was almost even as NMU gained four more yards than Ferris (120-1116). In the air the Bulldogs had the advantage with 190 yards compared to 109 for NMU. Ferris had seven more first downs than NMU on the afternoon at 16-9.
Privitelli led all rushers with a career-high 135 yards on 24 carries. He had his hand in both of NMU's touchdowns on the day as he ran for one and threw for the other. Jacob Hicks getting his first start at quarterback was 11-16-0 for 96 yards. Brancheau registered six catches for 78 yards.
Zach Pierson led the defense with 14 total tackles (11 solo and three assisted). He also had two sacks for minus seven yards and four tackles-for-loss (-14 yards). John Blessing added seven total tackles (five solo and two assisted).
NMU will face Indianapolis next Saturday afternoon (Oct. 23 at 1 p.m.) in the Superior Dome.