Tradition • Character • Service

Tradition • Character • Service

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Hillsdale will test Wildcats' rushing game

Hillsdale will test Wildcats’ rushing game
By KURT MENSCHING, Journal Sports Writer

MARQUETTE – You get no breaks when you’re a football team struggling to pull your way up the standings of a tough conference.

Northern Michigan University had to make its own luck last Saturday against one of the better defenses in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

The Wildcats get to do it all over again when they travel to Hillsdale College for a 2:30 p.m. game Saturday.

“My biggest concern was we hadn’t faced a lot of adversity,” NMU coach Bernie Anderson said after practice Wednesday. “We faced some adversity Saturday, and we passed that test.”

The Wildcats beat Indianapolis, 27-20, in overtime after trailing by 13 points in the fourth quarter.

In contrast, the Chargers beat Gannon University, 35-7, on the road and took the ball away four times.

“They (Hillsdale) are much improved, from what we can see on film, over a year ago,” Anderson said. “They were a good football team a year ago. They’re very tough to beat at home – football’s the sport at their school. They’ve had a national championship in their history.

“We know what they’re capable of, but we just have to concentrate on ourselves, not Hillsdale.”

To that extent, quarterback Buddy Rivera continues to do well with Anderson’s new offensive scheme.

Rivera accounted for all four touchdowns in the Superior Dome, two on the ground and two through the air.

The problem area Anderson sees come in the rushing game – on both sides of the line of scrimmage.

The Wildcats pushed the ball just 100 yards on the ground, and the NMU defense didn’t do a great job of stopping the run, either.

“We’re a young football team up front, our line, it’s a new system, and we played against a very good defense,” Anderson said. “When you put those in the same mixture, you’re going to struggle a little bit. With time, we’ll get better with that part.”

Hillsdale’s Phil Martin moved the ball 155 yards and scored twice in the opener. Anderson expects the Wildcats to see a lot of him and knows NMU’s success will begin with its ability to stop the run.

“After giving up (200) yards rushing, if I was an opponent coming to play Northern Michigan right now, I’d look to rush the football,” Anderson said.

The game in southern Michigan gives Anderson his first chance to travel with his team.

“It gives us some private time, nice relaxing on the bus,” he said. “We get to eat together as a team. We’re in the hotel, We get a good night’s rest.

“And we get an opportunity to beat someone on their home field.

“I kind of like that setting. I think our players will, too.”

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