NMU football: Brown becomes third QB to start for Wildcats this season because of injuries
MARQUETTE – When 18-year-old Northern Michigan University true freshman Shaye Brown starts at quarterback at 7 p.m. Saturday against Grand Valley State (4-2 overall, 2-2 in GLIAC) at Lubbers Stadium in downstate Allendale, he’ll not only be the third starting QB this season for the Wildcats (1-4 overall, 1-4 in GLIAC), but the sixth since current NMU head coach Chris Ostrowsky came to Marquette in 2010 as the program’s offensive coordinator.
For Ostrowsky, there’s only one way to describe it.
“It’s wild,” he said.
NMU junior transfer Dustin Thomas became the second Northern quarterback this season to suffer a season-ending injury and the fourth QB since Ostrowsky was brought in from Northeastern 3 1/2 years ago to be lost for the rest of a season.
In 2010, junior Carter Kopach was lost for the year in Week 6 after going down with a leg injury at Lubbers Stadium against GVSU.
Kopach returned the following year – while his replacement, freshman Jacob Hick, did not – and played all 11 games, making him the only starting QB thus far to survive a whole season.
Last year in Ostrowsky’s first as head coach, starting QB Ryan Morley suffered a season-ending concussion against Michigan Tech at the Superior Dome, also in Week 6.
Morley, now a sophomore, then required offseason shoulder surgery, and just before training camp began this year, was ruled out for the season.
Morley’s replacement in 2012, 6-foot-3, 242-pound Cody Scepaniak, finished out the season by winning three of the last five games to win the starting role in 2013.
Scepaniak only lasted 2 1/2 games, however, before a right leg injury sidelined him at Ashland (Ohio) in Week 3 and ended his season.
Junior Dustin Thomas, a transfer out of Villanova, only lasted two starts in relief of Scepaniak this year after he broke his throwing arm at Michigan Tech a week ago.
With Morley still recovering from shoulder surgery, Scepaniak on crutches and Thomas toting a hard cast on his right arm, Brown is all that’s left at quarterback for Northern with five game remaining, including road trips to GVSU, Saginaw Valley State and Ferris State.
The Wildcats also host Wayne State on Oct. 26 and Northwood on Nov. 2, both at 1 p.m. at the Superior Dome.
If the 6-3, 215-pound Brown gets injured in that span, then the Wildcats must turn to former Escanaba all-state quarterback Austin Young, who at 5-9, 170 pounds, has spent his first two seasons as a Wildcat lining up at running back or wide receiver.
“Imagine that,” Ostrowsky said. “Excuses are cheap, and I don’t blame people. Everybody wants to see us win and nobody wants to see us win – believe me – more than I do. We now have to revamp all over again.”
While Scepaniak and Thomas were running quarterbacks that liked to use their legs as much as their arms – they’re still NMU’s top two leading rushers – Brown is a pocket passer, according to Ostrowsky.
In terms of styles, Brown is “completely different” compared to his predecessors this year.
“He’s going to have to play a lot sooner than we anticipated, but he’s a real football-smart young man,” Ostrowsky said.
“He’s a pleasure to coach. He loves the game. We’re going to embrace every day with Shaye as our quarterback.”
Brown was originally projected by Ostrowsky to begin battling for the starting job at NMU as a third-year sophomore in 2015, but that timeline has been slashed and burned due to injuries.
Ostrowsky said veteran offensive weapons such as senior wide receiver Christian Jessie and third-year sophomore running back Wyatt Jurasin will be key resources on the field on game day.
But the group that can help an 18-year-old rookie quarterback the most in his first start will be the offensive line.
“They have to keep the young man upright,” Ostrowsky said. “If he has a rush, it could be tough.
“I think the speed of the game is going to be the toughest adjustment coming from high school to college, just like going from college to the NFL.”