Thursday Night Special
by, 09-04-2012 at 09:45 PM (912 Views)
If you read my preview of last Thursday's games, you might recall that I mentioned the "scheduling quirk" that the league approved so Northern could put together a non-conference game. Well, that game happens this Thursday as the Wildcats welcome Wisconsin-LaCrosse to the Superiordome.
Wisconsin-LaCrosse (1-0) at Northern Michigan (0-1)
The Wildcats scheduling a D3 opponent really doesn't have a ton of cache. Additionally, a win (which they should get) doesn't count towards their strength-of-schedule value when it comes to their GLIAC opponents looking for bumps in their playoff resumes. With all of that said, I'm glad the 'Cats at least put something together. This is a young club with a young staff and they need game reps more than just about anything at this point. A week at home practicing against themselves really won't help much, and this will at least provide a legitimate growth opportunity for everyone in the program...not to mention a win during the Wildcat Sports Kickoff weekend would be nice for the fans and the campus.
Despite a rough outing at Findlay last week, Northern did have a few bright spots. Freshman QB Ryan Morley threw for 235 yards in his first start, and while the Wildcat ground game didn't chalk up a ton of yardage (they were behind most of the game and had to throw a bunch), they did average more than five yards per carry so the O showed some signs of life. The key for Northern is the same as it is for most clubs: keep the mistakes to a minimum.
The "minimize mistakes" axiom is always valid, but was proven true by Northern's opponent just this past weekend. LaCrosse opened at 2011 CCIW Champ North Central this past weekend, with North Central rated #6 in D3. Despite being outgained nearly two-to-one, LaCrosse forced six turnovers and returned two of them for scores to snag the upset. If the Wildcats think they can committ a bunch of mis-steps and get away with them simply because they're playing a D3 club, I would respectfully advise against testing such notions...just ask North Central.
In the end, Northern is going to be deeper simply due to the fact that they have scholarship players and LaCrosse "doesn't". In addition, UW-LC was a 3-7 club last year so it's not like there is a juggernaut heading to Marquette. I like Prince Young to have a nice day running the ball, and Morley to take a jump forward from last week. Additionally, the Eagle offense wasn't exactly potent last week so Northern should be able to keep things pretty well contained defensively. Northern 44, LaCrosse 12.