MARQUETTE, Mich. – Northern Michigan University Football gets their 2019 season started this weekend as they host McKendree University on Saturday, September 7 at 1 p.m. in the Superior Dome.
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| A NEW LOOK
Saturday's matchup begins a new era for the Wildcats as they look to replace career and single-season school rushing leader Jake Mayon. They also feature a new offensive coordinator in Dan Fodrocy. Looking to fill Mayon's shoes will be junior Deandre Caldwell (Kankakee, Ill.) and sophomore Sebastion Toland (Jackson, Mich.). Caldwell has served as Mayon's back up for the past two years while Toland moves into a larger role his sophomore season.
| MAKING HIS RETURN
Last year NMU was forced to play four different quarterbacks throughout the season, starting when initial starter, Ryan Johnson (De Pere, Wis.) suffered injury on the third play of the season. Johnson has fully recovered from his season-ending injury and looks to lead the Wildcat offense. During his freshman season, Johnson threw for 1,581 yards and nine touchdowns, completing 60% of his passes. He threw for a career-high 363 yards against Saginaw Valley State. He will be challenged for the starting position by redshirt freshman Drake Davis (Princeton, Ill.), a transfer from Northern Illinois University, and sophomore transfer Keshawn Howard (Rochester, N.Y./Fairport).
| CONTINUING TO IMPROVE
Defensively, the team has allowed 118 fewer rushing yards per game and allowed 107 fewer total yards per game since Head Coach Kyle Nystrom took the helm starting in the 2017 season. The defense returns their leading tackler, junior Brady Hanson (Kewaskum, Wis.), who finished with 82 tackles. Sophomore linebacker Isaac Darkangelo (Brighton, Mich.) returns for his second season after posting 60 tackles during his rookie season. Junior Austin Potter (Warren, Mich.) also returns to the starting linebacker role after he recorded 54 tackles. Joining Hanson in the defensive backfield will be sophomore Anthony Ladd (Columbus, Ohio) who helped seal a 34-24 victory at Wayne State with a 90 yard interception return with 10 seconds left to play.
| KEEPING IT CLOSE
Northern Michigan lost four games last season by a combined 12 points. In the opener, the Wildcats fell to McKendree 34-28. Later in the season, they fell to Davenport University 31-30 in overtime. The next weekend, they fell to Northwood 27-24. Against rival Michigan Technological University, the Wildcats fell by just two points, 35-33. The squad looks to use the experiences gained the past two years to see more success in close games.
| RUNNING WILD
Last year's offense set a total of four rushing records. In addition to Jake Mayon's individual records, the Wildcats also set a new team season rushing record as well as 24 rushing first downs against Lawrence Technological University. The offensive line sees three opening day starters returning for the season. Sophomore Payton Muljo (Marquette, Mich.), junior Gabe Baumann (Rockford, Mich.) and junior Jay Young (New Baltimore, Mich.) all return this season to anchor the left side of the offensive line. Junior Derek Crane (Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.), sophomore Trevor Hiller (Kankakee, Ill.) and sophomore Blake Whitcomb (Greenville, Mich.) saw playing time last year and compete to step into starting roles this year.
| SENIOR LEADERSHIP
This years team feature 12 seniors entering the year. Nick Barnes (Chicago, Ill.), James Brown (Menominee, Mich.), Alex Hamilton (Chesterfield, Mich.), Latrell Giles (Chicago, Ill.), Ryan Knight (Grand Rapids, Mich.), John Kwiecinski (Plymouth, Mich.), Garret Lundteigen (Petoskey, Mich.), Gunnar Lundteigen (Petoskey, Mich.), Troy Mayon (Plainfield, Ill.), Logan McHone (Pleasanton, Calif.), Jeremy Statz (Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.) and Demarious Wright (Delray Beach, Fla.) looking for a strong cap to their NMU careers.
| ALL-GLIAC RETURNERS
The Wildcats placed 12 players on the All-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Teams last season, the most since atleast the 2000 season. Five of those players return this season. Senior punter John Kwiecinski (Plymouth, Mich.) was selected for the second straight season while senior Troy Mayon (Plainfield, Ill.), junior Gabe Baumann (Rockford, Mich.) and sophomores Benjamin Loutsis (Aurora, Ill.) and Jacob Dudeck (Manhattan, Ill.).
| NMU VERSUS MCKENDREE
NMU takes on the Bearcats for the second time in program history. Last year's first-ever matchup saw the Wildcats forced to a third quarterback during the contest, but the Wildcats remained close throughout the game, scoring late in the game but fell short, 34-28.