Courtesy of Wayne State Athletics
DETROIT -- The Wayne State University football team (4-1 overall, 3-1 GLIAC) has started 4-1 for the third consecutive after a 26-18 Homecoming victory over visiting Northern Michigan University (3-2 overall, 3-1 GLIAC).
The Warrior defense caused four turnovers and limited the Wildcats to 95 rushing yards despite the visitors having a slight edge in time of possession (30:46-29:14).
Not to be out-done, the WSU offense scored 26 points against the league's second ranked defense (13.2 points per game) and gained nearly 100 yards more of offense against the GLIAC's top-ranked defense (238.0 yards per game).
On NMU's second play from scrimmage, junior safety Jeremy Jones (Grand Rapids, Mich./Rockford) stepped in front of the intended receiver for his fourth career interception, and first since Sept. 12, 2009, at Indianapolis.
The Warriors struck quickly as sophomore quarterback Mickey Mohner (Painesville, Ohio/Harvey) tossed a 12-yard scoring pass to senior wide receiver Ed Sanders (Detroit, Mich./Renaissance) on WSU's second play of the game. It was Sanders' fourth career TD reception and first since Sept. 19, 209, vs. Findlay.
Northern Michigan had to punt on its second possession of the contest and the WSU offense drove 33 yards in 10 plays following a 44-yard punt return by junior Josh Renel (Rochester Hills, Mich./Rochester Adams) for a 29-yard field goal by freshman Stefan Terleckyj (Warren, Mich./Warren Mott). Mohner had a 14-yard completion to senior Travis Campbell (Gahanna, Ohio/Westerville North) on a second-and-12.
After each team punted, the Wildcats made it a 10-3 Warrior lead as Rockne Belmonte made a 38-yard field goal attempt into the wind. The big play for NMU was a 32-yard reception by Dustin Brancheau on a pass from Carter Kopach.
Following WSU's third straight three-and-out, Northern Michigan pulled within one at 10-9 after a one-yard quarterback sneak by Kopach. The Wildcats went 50 yards in eight plays with Brancheau having a 17-yard catch and a 24-yard reception on the drive. Belmonte's PAT kick was wide left.
Renel had a terrific kickoff return past midfield nullified by an "interesting" illegal block penalty. Nonetheless, the Warriors drove 49 yards in nine plays but Mohner's pass was intercepted by Edwin Knoblock, who returned the pick 70 yards for a go-ahead score with just 19 seconds left in the first half. Kopach's two-point pass attempt was batted away by Cortez Smith (Detroit, Mich./Cass Tech).
On Northern Michigan's second drive of the second half, Jones returned his second interception of the contest 21 yards to the NMU 36. On the ensuing play, Mohner hit junior Donald Brown (Detroit, Mich./Southfield) for a 36-yard touchdown pass. It was Brown's first touchdown reception of the season, and first since Nov. 1, 2008, at Northwood. It was also Brown's second career TD catch against the Wildcats (first was Oct. 11, 2008, vs. NMU on WSU's Homecoming). The Warriors two-point pass attempt failed leaving WSU with a one-point advantage at 16-15.
The Wildcats regained the lead by drive 48 yards in 11 play with Belmonte connecting on a 44-yard field goal attempt to give the guests an 18-16 lead with 2:44 left in the third quarter.
NMU's lead lasted barely two minutes as the Warriors drove 59 yards in seven plays with Terleckyj making a 20-yard field goal attempt putting WSU in front 19-18. The key play of the drive was a 44-yard reception by junior Troy Burrell (Port Huron, Mich.) on a first-and-10.
The Wayne State defense rose to the occasion on Northern's ensuing drive after the Wildcats had moved the ball for 54 yards on five plays. Following an NMU timeout, junior linebacker Jordan Miller (Cincinnati, Ohio/Colerain) knifed through the Wildcat offensive line and dropped running back Phillipe Smith for a yard loss on a fourth-and-one from the WSU 19.
The Warriors put together a long, sustained drive using over six minutes of the clock on a 14-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. WSU converted three third-down plays on the drive including a nine-yard touchdown run by Burrell on a third-and-seven from the NMU 9. Terleckyj's PAT kick concluded the scoring.
On the Wildcats next drive, senior cornerback Stan Thornton (Cincinnati, Ohio/Withrow) moved into a tie-for-second place on the WSU all-time interception list with his 15th career pick, and third of the season.
Following a Wayne State punt, NMU received a first down on an "interesting" pass interference call on a fourth-and-two. Kopach completed a pass on the next play to the NMU 48 but four straight incompletions gave the ball to WSU on downs and the Warriors were able to run out the clock.
Wayne State improves to 38-35-1 in Homecoming contests and 4-1 against the Wildcats on WSU Homecoming.
Renel led all rushers with 84 yards on 16 carries as WSU out-rushed the Wildcats 141-95. John Privitelli gained a team-best 56 yards on 15 carries for NMU.
Mohner completed 17-of-29 for 180 yards and two touchdowns, while Kopach was 15-of-32 for 218 yards but was intercepted four times.
NMU's Brancheau led all receivers with 111 yards on five catches. Burrell had six receptions for 63 yards, while Brown had a career-high five catches for 60 yards.
Renel, who entered the contest first nationally in all-purpose yards per game (202.5), recorded 213 yards (84 rushing, 31 receiving, 57 on punt returns and 41 on kickoff returns).
Wayne State will play its lone road contest in this stretch of four home games in five weeks next Saturday at GLIAC newcomer Lake Erie College. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.