MARQUETTE, Mich. – The Northern Michigan University football team wrapped up 100th season of Wildcat football under first-year head coach Chris Ostrowsky. The 2012 season was a tale of two halves as the ‘Cats went 1-5 in the first six games and 3-2 in the final five games.
The Green and Gold opened the season with a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference game at the University of Findlay on Aug. 30. The Oilers defeated the ‘Cats 45-10 after scoring the first 10 points of the game and scoring three straight touchdowns in the third quarter.
The home opener was on Sept. 6 as Ostrowsky picked up his first head coaching win with a 24-6 victory over the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.The Eagles scored a touchdown on the opening possession of the game but the Wildcats answered with 24 straight points, including 10 in the fourth quarter.
Northern then lost four straight, allowing over 40 points per game. Ohio Dominican University defeated the ‘Cats 47-7 in Columbus, Ashland University won Homecoming 42-13 at the Superior Dome, Hillsdale College (42-6) didn’t allow and NMU touchdown and Michigan Tech University (41-17) won the Miner’s Cup.
The tables turned on Oct. 13 as No. 14-ranked Grand Valley State University came to town. The ‘Cats took a 17-10 lead into halftime and shutout the Lakers in the second half while scoring 21 additional points for a 38-10 win, snapping an 11-game losing streak to GVSU. The Wildcats allowed only 263 yards of offense while totaling 462 yards of their own. NMU received two rushing touchdowns each from junior 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.
The next week (Oct. 20) in Detroit, Wayne State University squeaked out a 38-31 win after NMU mounted a three-touchdown comeback late in the game. The Warriors scored the go-ahead TD with 1:16 on the clock. NMU had a chance for the equalizer but was picked off in the endzone to end the game.
NMU picked up its first road win of the season on its final road trip of the season at Northwood University on Oct. 27. The ‘Cats scored a touchdown in the each of the first three quarters and defeated the Timberwolves 21-13.
November opened with a 33-28 win over Saginaw Valley State University at the Dome as NMU scored 17 points in the fourth quarter. The Wildcats recovered three fumbles by SVSU punt returners and turned them into 13 points on two field goals and a touchdown.
The ‘Cats lost a heart breaker on the final game of the season against Ferris State University on Nov. 10. The Bulldogs scored a touchdown with nine seconds to go and had a successful two-point conversion to defeat the Wildcats 32-31 on Senior Day.
NMU’s 12 seniors were honored before the game as Zach Anderson, Rockne Belmonte, James Brito-White, Sam Celentino, Jace Daniels, Josh Droese, Eddie Knoblock, Weston McIntosh, Brent Parrett, Chad Pepper, Joe Vezina and Prince Young played their final game in the Green and Gold.
For the season, NMU averaged 320 yards of total offense on 141 yards rushing and 179 passing. The ‘Cats were 32 percent on third down and 53 percent on fourth down. Young rushed for 540 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 77.1 in seven games. Scepaniak had 479 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. Cotta had 398 yards and fourth touchdowns in four games.
Scepaniak also threw for 1,055 yards on 74-for-128 attempts. He had six touchdowns. Redshirt freshman Ryan Morley was 88-of-174 through the air for 916 yards and three touchdowns.
Junior Christian Jessie (501), sophomore Julian Gaines (380) and freshman Sterlin Darling (331) all had over 300 yards receiving. Jessie led the team with eight touchdowns on six receiving, one rushing and a kick return.
Belmonte was 14-for-20 on field goals and 25-for-25 on point after attempts. He made two field goals over 50 yards. Belmonte holds NMU records for field goals in a career (45), longest field goal (58) and field goals in a season (15).
Sophomore Nick Krause led the team with 94 total tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. He had 56 solo and 38 assisted tackles. Junior Morgan Stenz (82) and Knoblock (80) both had 80 tackles. Anderson had 71 total tackles, including 10 tackles for loss while junior Brandon Parson had 58 total tackles and three interceptions. Sophomore Derek Beltrame also had three interceptions.
Four players were honored by the GLIAC in the annual postseason awards. Anderson, Belmonte, senior Jace Daniels and Jessie were named to the GLIAC first team. Cotta, junior offensive lineman Pat Fehlberg, Knoblock, Krause, Scepaniak and Stenz were GLIAC honorable mention selections.
Belmonte was named a Beyond Sports Network All-American as a second team choice. Jessie was selected to the 2012 Daktronics Inc. All-Super Region Four first team as a return specialist selection. He led the GLIAC in kick return yards (1,056) and average return yards (28.6) and broke a Dome record with a 99-yard kickoff return against Ferris State.
# # # NMU # # #