MARQUETTE, Michigan – In its fourth road test of the season, Lawrence Technological University's football program was unable to tame the Wildcats of Northern Michigan, falling 65-7 in the Superior Dome on Saturday, October 20. Coming in surrendering just 24.2 yards per game on the ground, the Blue Devils defense saw a stable of backs put up 444 rushing yards.
Northern Michigan's Jake Mayon entered the contest as one of the GLIAC's top running backs and closing in on NMU's all-time career rushing record. Mayon took 12 carries for 121 yards and three scores in the opening half. Deandre Caldwell took over the majority of the reps in the backfield, breaking the 100-yard barrier himself with 20 rushes for 171 yards and a touchdown.
LTU (5-2) was outgained in the contest 600-263 yards.
The Blue Devils move to 1-1 against NCAA programs this season, having defeated DIII Wisconsin Lutheran on September 8 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This was LTU's first road loss of the season.
Nick Spohn (FR/Phoenix, AZ) established himself early as Kulka's top target on the afternoon, finishing the first half with 106 yards. Spohn completed the day with 142 yards and six catches.
Thomas Lappin (FR/Howell, MI) has led the defense in tackles in four outing this season. Coming off the team's first double-digit tackle performance a week ago, Lappin opened the game in Marquette with nine tackles in the first half alone, ending the effort with a season-high 16, 1.5 of which were for loss. Danny Macks recorded 11 tackles.
Northern Michigan received to start the game, opening with a pair of Mayon runs to march into LTU territory. Connor Bruinius took the pass from Kole Stealy down inside the Blue Devils 10-yard line to setup a Mayon scoring run from four yards out. The 72-yard drive took just under two minutes off the clock.
With favorable field position at the LTU 33 after a late hit call, the Wildcats kept feeding Mayon for big chunks of yards on the ensuing possession. The Plainfield, Illinois, native took a pair of handoffs all the way down to the LTU nine-yard line before scampering in for his second score of the game.
Looking for Otero out of the backfield on a screen play and an answer to NMU's roaring start, Kulka threw his fourth interception of the season as the Wildcats' defensive lineman Brad Gustafson got his paws on the ball and rumbled to the Blue Devils' 12. On first down, Stealy found Benjamin Loutsis running toward the far pylon to put the Wildcats up 21-0 with 9:13 to play in the opening quarter.
Trying to spark something on third down, Kulka went long for Higdon down the visitor sideline but just missed the speedster's outstretched arms. On the ensuing punt, Northern Michigan broke through the line and blocked the kick out of the endzone for a safety – extending the NMU lead to 23-0.
Stealy ignited another long drive for the Wildcats with a quarterback scamper across midfield. Back-to-back Mayon carries chewed up some healthy yards to put Northern Michigan inside the 30. The ball was backed up due to an unsportsmanlike penalty on NMU. Caldwell broke a carry to the outside and was able to score from 30-yards out, but a holding call wiped out the score. Facing their second third down of the series, Stealy scrambled and found a lane down to the LTU 20 to keep the drive alive. Mayon polished it off with a 20-yard touchdown, breaking through a pack of tacklers near the line of scrimmage.
Facing third and 17 deep in their own end, Kulka scrambled to buy time and found Spohn on the LTU sideline for a pickup of 43 yards. Inside enemy territory for the first time on the afternoon, Kulka connected once again with Spohn, this time for 33 yards, to set up the Blue Devils with a first and goal. Kulka capped the drive with a one-yard keeper over center to put Lawrence Tech on the board, 30-7.
Caldwell took over the workload in quarter two for the Wildcats, delivering a pair of punishing runs to put NMU up near midfield once again. Isiah Wright in at quarterback spotted Dixon in a soft spot of the coverage for 33 yards and a first down on the LTU 25. Caldwell exploded to the outside on the next play to answer Lawrence Tech's second quarter score.
The rushing attack of Northern Michigan continued to ground and pound midway through the second quarter, as Caldwell needed just two carries to put the Wildcats inside the LTU 35. Wright notched his second touchdown toss of the quarter, avoiding a diving tackler and finding Ravon Johnson – putting NMU up 44-7.
The Blue Devils establish a drive late with some quick passes to the sideline from Kulka to Spohn and Thompson. After a pair of incomplete attempts to Jamison, LTU faced fourth and three from the NMU 36. A holding call on the secondary resulted in a first down to keep the series moving. The momentum was halted though when Kulka fumbled the snap, picked it up and then threw it away. Intentional grounding was called forcing an LTU punt.
The second half continued in similar fashion out of the gates. Lawrence Tech was unable to capitalize on a 28-yard return by Higdon – forced to punt after a three and out. The Wildcats' run game continued to pick up hunks of yards at a time to march inside the redzone. Scott Tripp became the third NMU running back to find pay dirt, taking a pitch toward the LTU sideline in from seven yards out.
Northern Michigan would put up one more touchdown in the third quarter and another in the final frame to round out the scoring.
Lawrence Tech returns to action next week against Trinity Bible on Saturday, October 27, at the LTU Athletic Field. Kickoff is set for noon. Last time out versus the Lions, LTU came home from Ellendale, North Dakota, with a 68-7 win on October 6.