MARQUETTE, Mich. – The Northern Michigan University football team put on a show in front of a Homecoming crowd of over 4,600 Saturday afternoon in the Superior Dome. Also in attendance was the 1975 NMU NCAA Division II National Championship football team for its 35th year celebration.
The Wildcats found themselves down by six points to Ashland in the early stages of the second quarter. Two scores later in the quarter gave the 'Cats a 14-6 halftime lead. After three quarters of play is was tied game. NMU scored the game-winning touchdown with less than two minutes left in the game to pull out a 23-19 win. The victory gives the 'Cats a 3-1 overall record and a 3-0 mark in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC). The Eagles fall to 1-3 and 0-3 GLIAC. "We did get the win and it was a total team effort," said Bernie Anderson, NMU head football coach. "It may have not been as pretty as we wanted."
Ashland jumped out to a 6-0 lead on field goals by Gregg Berkshire from 44 yards in the first quarter at 9:25 and then from 40 in the second quarter at 9:06. Carter Kopach then had two long runs in the second quarter to give the 'Cats the lead before halftime. His first score of the day was from 41 yards out at 7:04 then a little about three minutes later he rambled in from 52 yards away (4:12). Both extra points were good by Rockne Belmote as the score was 14-6 after 30 minutes of play.
Ashland struck first in the third quarter on another field goal by Berkshire this time from 50 yards (7:18) from a 14-9 score. DJ Oke tackled Joe Horn in the end zone for a safety at 2:13 to give the 'Cats a seven-point lead (16-9). Two plays after the free kick Kopach was sacked at the NMU 25-yard line, he fumbled the ball and it was recovered by AJ Quinton for a 20-yard fumble return for an Ashland touchdown and with the good extra point it was tied up at 16-all.
Ashland struck first in the fourth quarter to take a 19-16 lead with 7:00 left on the clock. Berkshire kicked his fourth field goal of the day as it split the uprights from 20 yards out. NMU used an 11-play 61-yard drive and 5:58 off the clock on the winning touchdown drive. Jared Buss, on his only carry of the day, found pay dirt from five yards out with 1:40 left in the game. Belmonte's kick was good and the 'Cats took back the lead 23-19. The NMU defense held Ashland on downs to end the game.
Ashland had a little more total offense on the day at 271 yards (168 yards rushing and 103 passing) while NMU recorded 238 yards of total offense (159 yards rushing and 79 passing). The Eagles had the ball for almost 32 minutes (31:59) of the game to NMU's 28 minutes (28:01).
Kopach led the 'Cats on the ground with109 yards on 25 carries. He also accounted for 79 yards passing on 7-15-1. Dustin Brancheau hauled in three of Kopach's passes for 10 yards while Tony Awrey had two catches for 58 yards.
Daniel Catalano led the defense with nine total tackles (four solo and five assisted) and tackle-for-a-loss (-2 yards). Five other 'Cats had six total tackles on the day, Eric Wells (five solo and one assisted), Oke (five solo and one assisted), Edwin Knoblock (four solo and two assisted), Josh Droese (three solo and three assisted) and Zach Anderson (three solo and three assisted).
The 'Cats will be away from the Superior Dome the next two Saturdays. Next week the team is in the Motor City to face the Wayne State Warriors (Oct. 2 at noon). The following week (Oct. 9 at 7 p.m.) the 'Cats travel to Allendale, Mich. to face Grand Valley State.