Photo by Todd Thoenen
(CANTON, Ohio) – Three touchdowns in the first quarter paved the way for Northern Michigan's 35-17 win over Walsh in the final game at the current version of Tom Benson Stadium late Saturday night. The Cavaliers (2-7, 2-7) did outgain a vaunted Wildcats (5-4, 4-4) offensive attack by a large margin, but turnovers hurt as they tried to exchange them into points.
Northern Michigan's night started fast as Shaye Brown found Keyondre Craig on a 37-yard pass to help give the Wildcats a 7-0 lead just one minute into the game. A big kickoff return set up the drive as NMU returned it to the 38 yard line.
Brown was the driving force behind the Wildcats' attack as he finished his night 23-of-35 for 299 yards and four touchdowns.
Walsh did respond after the first touchdown as Michael Dudics squeezed in a 49-yard field goal through the uprights of the north end zone. However Brown and Craig connected again with an 11-yard score before Brown hit Marcus Tucker from 22 yards out to go up 21-3 with 1:31 left in the first quarter.
The Cavaliers was by no means out of the game and battled throughout to make Northern Michigan work for the win. On their final drive of the half, they marched 77 yards in eight plays as Jeremy Willison took the direct snap and ran left off tackle to sneak into the end zone and help make the score 21-10 at the half.
Brown and Craig weren't done either though as they connected again on a 35-yard touchdown pass to with 8:30 left in the third quarter. That made the score 28-10 and was set up on a fake punt that saw Robert Salani run untouched 17 yards down to the 35 yard line on a fourth-and-four.
Walsh's final score came from Mack Coleman as he plunged in on a five-yard run to make the score 28-17 with 2:02 left in the third. The Cavs were unable to convert after that and NMU added a score midway through the fourth to ice the game.
The Cavs did outgain the Wildcats 512-405 for its largest output of the season. Jason Fracassa was responsible for most of them as he completed 29-of-50 passes for 345 yards. Sage Pope was his favorite receiver as Pope caught eight balls for 100 yards. Aaron Male also had a big day as he rushed for over the century mark for the fourth time this season with 121 markers on 19 carries. Throw in his five receptions for 76 yards and he was just shy of 200 all-purpose yards.
Defensively Nicholas King led the team with 11 tackles.
Walsh is off next weekend and will close out the season in Michigan at Ferris State on Saturday, November 14. Kickoff with the No. 3 Bulldogs is set for noon.