Story and photo courtesy of Northern Michigan Athletics
MARQUETTE, Mich. – The Northern Michigan University football team snapped an 11-game losing to streak to Grand Valley State with a 38-10 upset of the No. 14-ranked Lakers on Saturday (Oct. 13) afternoon from the Superior Dome. The Wildcats allowed only 263 yards of offense while totaling 462 yards of their own. NMU is now 2-5 overall and 1-5 in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
NMU received two rushing touchdowns each from senior quarterback Cody Scepaniak and junior running back Casey Cotta. Scepaniak, in his first start at NMU, also threw a touchdown pass to freshman Kelvin Smarwt. Senior kicker Rockne Belmonte boomed a 58-yard field goal to set a new NMU and Superior Dome record just before halftime.
“This is a big time win,” NMU coach Chris Ostrowsky said. “Just a huge win. I can’t tell you how proud I am of these players and their ability to work hard everyday and believe in us. It’s just a great feeling right now.”
NMU set the tone early, scoring on their first drive of the game. The Wildcats went on a seven-play 56 yard drive capped off by Cotta’s first career touchdown. He dashed 11 yards up the middle to give the home team a 7-0 lead with 10:41 left in the first quarter.
“We prepare every week to win and the kids believed and showed it today,” Ostrowksy added. “It was an unbelievable start to finish day for us.”
The Lakers answered with a 37-yard field goal from Marco Iaderosa three minutes later.
Early in the second quarter, Smarwt caught his first touchdown in the Green and Gold with a nine-yard reception. The play was setup by an 82-yard pass from Scepaniak to freshman Sterlin Darling on a third and three to the GVSU nine yard line. It was NMU’s longest play of the season.
GVSU (5-2, 4-2 GLIAC) scored its only touchdown of the game midway through the second quarter (9:02) as Hersey Jackson scored from one yard out. Kirk Spencer rushed five times for 69 yards in the seven play 70-yard scoring drive.
Belmonte’s 58-yarder came 15 seconds before halftime. It was on a third and seven but miscommunication on the sideline sent Belmonte and the kicking unit out onto the field. The kick sailed through the uprights with room to spare.
Scepaniak’s first touchdown was scored with 2:05 left on the third quarter clock on a 15-yard run up the middle. Junior Brandon Parson had an interception deep in Wildcat territory to start the drive for NMU. The ‘Cats marched 95 yards down the field in 14 plays.
Scepaniak found the endzone again in the fourth with a 20-yard run to the endzone after an interception by sophmore Derek Beltrame to setup the three-play drive. It was Beltrame’s second pick in back-to-back drives as he returned it 21 yards to the GVSU 22.
Cotta finished the game’s scoring with a 30-yard touchdown run. The two-play drive was setup by a Laker fumble forced by sophomore Nick Krause and recovered by junior Morgan Stenz on the GVSU 31.
NMU finished the day with a season-high 462 yards of offense on 244 rushing and 218 passing. The ‘Cats were 6-for-11 on third down and 4-for-5 in the redzone.
Scepaniak was 18-for-26 through the air for 218 yards a touchdown and an interception. He also had 115 yards rushing on 20 attempts with two touchdowns.
Cotta finished the game with an NMU season-high 130 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 16 touches. Darling had 116 yards receiving with three catches while Smarwt had 43 yards on four grabs.
The Wildcat defense had four interceptions and a recovered fumble. Krause led the ‘Cats with nine total tackles, including three for loss and a sack. Senior Eddie Knoblock and Stenz each had seven total tackles. Beltrame had two interceptions while Parson and redshirt freshman Levi Perry each had one.
For GVSU, Spencer finished with a game-high 145 yards on the ground. Brandon Beitzel was 9-for-24 passing for 78 yards and four interceptions.
Saturday was Band Day at the Dome. High schools bands that made the trip to Marquette to play at halftime and after the game were Marquette, Kingsford, Baraga, Wakefield-Marenisco, Engadine, East Jordan, Iron Mountain, Newberry and Gladstone.
The ‘Cats play their final two road games in the next two weeks, beginning in Detroit, Mich. next weekend for a meeting with the Wayne State Warriors.