MARQUETTE, Mich. -- Northern Michigan University Football kicks off their 2018 season with their season-opening matchup at McKendree University Saturday. The game game will start at 2 p.m. Eastern.
Saturday's game can be followed using the links below. Each link can also be found on the team calendar or the composite schedule at NMUwildcats.com.
| MAYON APPROACHES A SCHOOL RECORD.
Senior Jake Mayon (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield East) enters his final season approaching a school record for rushing yards in a career. Mayon has totaled 2,715 rushing yards over his first three seasons and enters 2018 1,127 yards shy of setting the new record.
| DEFENSE LOOKS TO CONTINUE IMPROVEMENT.
The 2017 defense made tremondous strides throughout the season. The defense allowed ten fewer points per game than 2016. The team also allowed 70 fewer rushing yards per game and reduced their total yards allowed per game by 50 yards. Despite one fewer game, the 2017 squad also recorded more sacks. With a year of experience in their new system, the defense looks to continue that upward trend.
Returning to lead the Wildcat offense is sophomore quarterback sophomore Ryan Johnson (DePere, Wisc./Ashwaubenon). Johnson started eight games his freshman season with nine touchdowns and 1,581 yards through the air. The team also returns five of their top six receivers from last year. Junior Ryan Knight (Grand Rapids, Mich./ Forest Hills Eastern) led the team with five touchdowns and 453 yards, including a long of 83 yards. Mayon added 23 catches for 203 yards. Sophomores Dan Van Effen (Escanaba, Mich./Escanaba) and Dallas Dixon (Phoenix, Ariz./Tolleson) both posted two touchdowns with sophomore Ravon Johnson (Willowbrook, Ill./Hinsdale South) chipping in with one.
|ANOTHER ROAD START.|
NMU begins the season on the road for the fourth straight season this year. Last season they visited Texas to take on Angelo State University. In 2016, the Wildcats visited Lake Erie College and started 2015 with a GLIAC contest at Northwood University. The last time Northern Michigan started the season in the Superior Dome came in 2014 with Northwood.
| PLAYING THE OTHER SIDE.
Junior Cole Van Enkenvort (Green Bay, Wis./Bay Port) played on the defensive line last season, but will make the change to tight end this season. During the 2017 season, he recorded three sacks and an interception and will now look to help aid the Wildcat offense.
| PRESEASON POLL.
In this season's preseason poll, the Wildcats were predicted to finish seventh in the GLIAC, ahead of Michigan Technological University and Davenport University.
| YEAR TWO.
The Wildcats enter the second year under Head Coach Kyle Nystrom. Nystrom brought over 30 years of college coaching experience to the Wildcats which proved important to the team's large defensive improvements. His staff also features a Canadian Football League Hall of Famer (Bob Jurasin, and a former NFL player (Jace Daniels). Nystrom's father, Buck, is in his third stint with the NMU Wildcats.
| NMU VERSUS MCKENDREE.
NMU versus McKendree:. This will be the first-ever match up between the two teams. McKendree finished last year 7-4 overall and 5-2 in the Great Lakes Valley Conference. This season, the Bearcats are predicted to finish second in the GLVC.