NMU Football opens with impressive win over McKendree

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MARQUETTE, Mi. Using a team effort that saw both sides of the ball make big plays, the Northern Michigan University Football team opened the 2019 season with a 30-9 victory over McKendree University.

OVERCOMING A SLOW START
On the second play of the game, NMU fumbled which McKendree recovered to set the Bearcats up on the NMU 16-yard line. The Bearcats got the ball to the goal line, but the Wildcat defense held strong and stopped McKendree on fourth down at the one-yard line.

The Wildcats would then go three and out and were forced to punt. On the next possession for McKendree, they threw a touchdown pass but a failed extra point put them up 6-0 with 5:10 to go in the first quarter.

ON THE BOARD
On the next drive, NMU narrowed the gap. Junior Deandre Caldwell (Kankakee, Ill.) returned the kickoff 57 yards to set up the Wildcats offense at the MCK 35-yard line. Back-to-back penalties from the Bearcats moved NMU up to the 24-yard line. Freshman Tyshon King (Kankakee, Ill.) ran for two yards and after another penalty by McKendree, Caldwell ran two times to get NMU to the five-yard line.

Sophomore Daniel Riser (Ada, Mich.) then capped the drive with a 22-yard field goal to make it 6-3 with 1:15 to go in the quarter.

TAKING A LEAD
Riser's ensuing touchback kickoff allowed the Bearcats to start at their 25-yard line. After an incompletion and a loss of a yard, an NMU penalty made it 3-6 on the MCK 29-yard line. On the play, the McKendree quarterback was intercepted by redshirt freshman defensive lineman Jacob Ager (Boyne City, Mich.) which he returned six yards to put NMU on the Bearcat 24-yard line.

With 16 seconds left in the quarter and on the first play of their drive, sophomore quarterback Ryan Johnson (De Pere, Wis.) rolled to his right and found Ryan Knight (Grand Rapids, Mich.) in the end zone along the sideline for the touchdown. After Riser's extra point, the Wildcats were up 10-6 with nine seconds left in the quarter.

THE SECOND QUARTER
On McKendree's second possession of the second quarter, the Bearcats managed to drive down to the NMU three-yard line, but another defensive stop forced a field goal to make the score 10-9 with 7:16 to go in the half.

The Wildcats answered with a seven-play, 40-yard drive but were forced to punt. Both teams then had one more possession in the quarter but neither were able to score, sending the game into halftime with NMU leading 10-9.

KING RUNS IT IN
Taking over at their 26-yard line with 10:11 left in the third quarter, Johnson found sophomore Sebastion Toland (Jackson, Mich.) for three yards, then hit junior Ravon Johnson (Willowbrook, Ill.) for 12 yards. After Johnson hit sophomore Connor Bruinius (Grand Rapids, Mich.) for six yards, Caldwell cut upfield for 14 yards and across midfield to set the Wildcats on the MCK 39-yard line.

The next play saw King get stuffed at the line, but an MCK penalty moved the Wildcats to the 24-yard line. On the following play, King broke through a hole on the left side of the line and juked a defender before waltzing into the end zone for the 24 yard score. Riser's extra point put the Wildcats up 17-10 with 6:47 to play in the third quarter.

A SECOND TD IN THE THIRD
Exactly six minutes later, the Wildcats extended their lead.

After the kickoff, McKendree started on their own 18-yard line and marched to the NMU 48. On the next play, freshman Tavion McCarthy (Gurnee, Ill.) picked off the Bearcat quarterback and returned it 38 yards to set up the Wildcats on the MCK 29-yard line.

The NMU drive started with 3:40 on the clock, and two rushes by Toland and King each moved the Wildcats to the ten. Johnson then hit junior Mitch Heaton (Clarkston, Mich.) in the end zone.

Riser hit his third extra point and NMU was up 24-9 with 47 seconds on the clock in the third quarter.

LOUTSIS GETS IN
In the fourth quarter, NMU scored once more to help seal victory.

Starting with 1st and 15 from the NMU 31-yard line, Caldwell rushed for four yards and then Johnson hit Ravon Johnson for 13 yards. King then ran for four yards to put NMU at 3rd and 6 on the MCK 48, but an incomplete pass forced fourth down.

On the punt, MCK was called for a penalty to set up 4th and 1 and the offensive line pushed the defense back to allow Johnson to sneak across for the first down while another MCK penalty moved NMU up to the MCK 38.

On the next play from the MCK 38-yard line, Johnson rolled to his right and found sophomore Benjamin Loutsis (Aurora, Ill.) on the 10, who juked past two defenders and crossed the goal line for his first touchdown of the year and Johnson's third touchdown throw of the game to make the score 30-6.

GETTING VICTORY
The Bearcats attempted to move closer and were able to march to the NMU 19-yard line, but were forced to kick a field which was wide right.

The Wildcats then took over and ran the ball eight times from the NMU 20 to the MCK 34 before kneeling twice to take the 30-6 victory.

STAT LEADERS
The Wildcats ran for a total of 138 yards. King led the way with 80 yards, with Caldwell adding 33 and Toland chipping in 30.

Ryan Johnson finished the day 10-14 for 130 yards and three touchdowns for the first time of his career. Ravon Johnson tallied three catches for 36 yards while Loutsis caught two passes for 50 yards and a touchdown. Knight finished with two catches as well and had 29 yards and a touchdown.

Defensively, sophomore Isaac Darkangelo (Brighton, Mich.) notched eight tackles and two quarterback hurries. Sophomores Jack Reiger (Hoffman Estates, Ill.), Anthony Ladd (Columbus, Ohio) and Trevor Roberts (Kingford, Mich.) each had five tackles.

Senior Demarious Wright (Delray Beach, Fla.), Ager, and junior Brady Hanson (Kewaskum, Wis.) all had a pass break up while Wright and redshirt freshman Antonio Howard Jr. (Chicago, Ill.) finished with two tackles for loss. Hanson and Ager also had a tackle for loss.

UP NEXT
The Wildcats, 1-0 on the season, will now look ahead to their trip to Texas next week to take on the University of Texas of the Permian Basin on September 14. NMU defeated UTPB in the Superior Dome last season, 27-22.