The Northern Michigan University football team lost for the first time this season as Ohio Dominican defeated the Wildcats 30-23 on Saturday (Sept. 21) on Homecoming. NMU is now 1-1 on the season and 1-1 in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
ODU (3-0, 2-0 GLIAC) twice held a 14-point lead and rushed for 301 yards in its first game ever at the Superior Dome. The Panthers also led the turnover battle (3-2) with two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Down 30-16 entering the fourth, the Wildcats started their second drive of the quarter with 8:53 left. NMU drove 48 yards down to the ODU 5-yardline but couldn't capitalize on a fourth and two and turned the ball over on downs.
NMU got the ball back on their own 47 with 3:15 left after an ODU punt. The 'Cats marched down the field, converting a pair of fourth downs and getting a pass interference on another to setup a touchdown. Senior quarterback Cody Scepaniak found freshman receiver Keyondre Craig deep in the corner of the endzone for an 8-yard score. The extra point made it a one score game with 19 second left.
Northern unsuccessfully tried an onside kick that the Panthers recovered and kneeled on the ensuing play to run the clock out.
ODU scored two touchdowns in the first quarter. Brandon Schoen had an 85-yard touchdown run with 7:46 left in the first and then the visitors added a 13-yard touchdown grab by Abe Johnson from Mark Miller for a 14-0 lead.
Scepaniak scored the first of his two touchdowns early in the second quarter (14:18). He had an 8-yard run after a 10-play, 81-yard drive. A 49-yard hookup between Scepaniak and senior receiver Christian Jessie setup the touchdown.
The two teams then traded turnovers. Senior Brandon Parson intercepted Miller on the next play after the NMU score. Scepaniak then had a fumble deep in ODU territory on a third and goal. The Panthers went 16 plays and 81 yards on the next drive and Brent Wahle kicked a 33-yard field goal for a 17-7 lead with 1:18 left in the second.
NMU wasn't done before halftime. Scepaniak threw three long passes to freshman receiver Marcus Tucker to setup a Jon Linkenheimer 23-yard field goal as time expired to cut the lead to a one-touchdown game (17-10).
Schoen scored a 5-yard touchdown on ODU's first possession of the second half to again take a 14-point lead (24-10).
The 'Cats answered with a 13-yard touchdown run by Scepaniak that was setup by a 34-yard reception from sophomore Keon Collier.
The Panthers made field goals from 30 and 25 on its next two possessions for the 30-16 lead.
NMU finished with 484 yards of total offense with 298 yards passing and 186 rushing. The 'Cats were 9-for-19 on third down, 2-for-3 on fourth down and 4-for-6 in the redzone.
Scepaniak finished the day 23-for-38 through the air for 298 yards a touchdown and an interception. He also led the team in rushing with 99 yards on 19 carries and two scores. Sophomore Wyatt Jurasin had 88 yards rushing. Tucker had 10 receptions for 127 yards. Jessie had two grabs for 54 yards.
Redshirt freshman Adam Williams, senior Rodney Lamar, sophomore Thomas McNamara and junior Nick Krause all had eight total tackles to lead NMU. Lamar, sophomore Loran Jaddou and freshman Chris Washington each had a tackle for loss.
ODU had 425 yards of offense on 425 rushing and 124 passing yards. The Panthers were 7-for-14 on third down, 1-for-1 on fourth down and 5-for-5 in the redzone.
Miller finished with 124 yards through the air for the Panthers. He was 14-for-23 with a touchdown and an interception. Mark Nichols had 157 yards rushing and Schoen added 141 yards on the ground. Johnson finished with 60 receiving yards on seven grabs. Justin Bell had a game-high 13 tackles. Warren Shields had 10 total tackles and Nikko Tanksley added nine. Anthony Smith had two sacks and Sydney Omameh had one.
NMU plays its first road game of the season at Ashland next Saturday (Sept. 28). Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. on the longest trip of the season for the 'Cats.
Game Notes: NMU is 0-2 all-time vs. ODU. NMU lost 47-7 at ODU in 2012. Attendance was 4,102 at the Superior Dome. Punter John Linkenheimer has put opponents inside the 20 on 8-of-9 punts so far this season