MARQUETTE, Mich. – The Northern Michigan University football team concluded the 2009 season with a 6-4 record for its first winning season since 2002. NMU’s record in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) was the same as its overall record which was good for a tie for fifth place. It is an improvement from 2008 when the Wildcats finished 2-8. NMU was also ranked in the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Top 25 Poll for the first time in school history. The ‘Cats were ranked 23rd the week of Oct. 12.
NMU began the season by winning five of its first six games. The ‘Cats lost to Northwood (21-23) the opening week of the season and then rattled off wins against Tiffin (62-0), Michigan Tech (48-16), Ferris State (34-0), Saginaw Valley State (23-20) and Wayne State (45-20). The last four weeks of the season were not as kind to the team as they lost three games. The ‘Cats lost to Hillsdale (17-28), Findlay (6-9), Grand Valley State (19-31) and then won the season finale against Indianapolis (41-14).
Offensively the ‘Cats averaged 350.7 yards a game in total offense (198.3 rushing and 152.4 passing). On the scoreboard the ‘Cast averaged 31.6 points an outing, which was third best in the GLIAC. Mark Bossuah led the ‘Cats on the ground with 720 yards on 152 carries as he scored a team-high 12 rushing touchdowns. He ended his career with 3,093 yards on 615 carries and scored 35 touchdowns. Newcomer Antonio Wallace was next on the list with 623 yards on 89 carries as he found the end zone eight times. As a team, NMU scored 26 rushing touchdowns.
Carter Kopach called the majority of the signals. He was 117-202-3 for 1,373 yards and 14 touchdowns. Ben Hempel also saw some time at quarterback as he was 6-13-0 for 108 yards. Kopach was fourth on the team in rushing with 183 yards on 74 carries.
Zach Nichols led the ‘Cats with 47 receptions for 613 yards. He hauled in a team-leading eight touchdown catches. Dustin Brancheau was the only other ‘Cat with 25 or more receptions as he had 33 for 329 yards. Nichols and Brancheau accounted for 80 of the 124 receptions. He had two touchdown catches. Two other ‘Cats had two touchdown receptions each (Blake Crider and Brian Mitz).
Defensively the ‘Cats gave up on average 312.4 yards a game (125.2 rushing and 187.2 passing). On the other side of the scoreboard the ‘Cats averaged 16.1 points a game in scoring defense. NMU was ranked second in the GLIAC in scoring defense and 10th in the country. Two seniors led the ‘Cats in total tackles. Nathan Yelk led the ‘Cat defense with 98 total tackles (51 solo and 47 assisted). He also recorded a team-high nine tackles-for-loss (-35 yards) and two sacks (-10 yards). Zach Gauthier was next on the list with 83 total tackles (33 solo and 50 assisted). Demetri Stewart was the first non-senior on the list as he was third with 65 total tackles (25 solo and 40 assisted). John Blessing, a junior led the team with five sacks (-35 yards).
As a unit the ‘Cats intercepted 12 passes and returned two for touchdowns. Gautheir led the way with a team-high three picks. Gauthier along with Junior Michel returned an interception for a score. NMU led the GLIAC in turnover margin (1.20 per/g).
Special teams played a big part of the ‘Cats turnaround. NMU led the GLIAC in punt return average (14.2 avg) and in kickoff coverage (42.5 net avg). Garrett Peck was one of the top kickers in the conference as he averaged 41.5 yards a boot. He was ranked eighth in the nation in the category. Wallace had 17 of the 24 punt returns on the year as he averaged 16.2 yards a return. He also returned a punt during the 2009 season for an 82-yard return. It was the first punt return for a touchdown since 1997. Brandon Smith led the ‘Cats with 21 kickoff returns for 467 yards (22.2 avg).
Bossuah led the ‘Cats with 72 points which ranked him sixth in the GLIAC. Rockne Belmonte converted 36-of-42 extra points and 5-of-7 field goals to accumulate 51 points. He connected from 36 yards against Hillsdale for his longest of the season.
### NMU ###
Sports Information Director