Wildcats coach pleased with team’s energy

MARQUETTE – Chris Ostrowsky’s enthusiasm is definitely rubbing off on his Northern Michigan University football team.

The Wildcats head coach said his team energy is getting him excited about the upcoming season that starts on Saturday evening, Sept. 6, at the Superior Dome against GLIAC foe Northwood University.

“I think one of our big positives is our energy level. I’m real excited about getting this season going,” the third-year head coach said during the team’s annual media day held on the Superior Dome field Sunday afternoon. “They’re just bringing the juice every day.”

He spoke about the positive effects that continuity within the coaching staff has given the team, along with more depth that should allow the team to redshirt a number of freshmen and not leave the team in desperate straits if several players at a position are injured.

“We had just one freshman leave in camp, and that’s unusual for the first-year players,” he said.

He also has a quarterback with a full year’s experience in sophomore Shaye Brown, pushed into the position last year due to unforeseen injuries.

“Shaye’s gained a tremendous amount of experience since the end of last year,” Ostrowsky said.

His teammates agree.

“Shaye was going to be redshirted last year, and then he got put into the starter’s role all of a sudden,” said senior wide receiver Marcus Tucker, one of four Wildcats elected captain by their teammates a week ago.

“Here you are when you’re 17 or 18 (years old) and you’re going up against grown men, trying to read coverages and deal with blitzes, it was a hard adjustment for him.”

Ishpeming High School graduate Wyatt Jurasin, a junior running back and also a captain, agreed.

“It’s been a real transformation for Shaye,” he said. “Now he’s one of our most confident players.”

Ostrowsky, who came to the Wildcats as an offensive specialist, is particularly pleased with a solid defense.

“What I love is the continuity of our staff on the defensive side,” the head coach said. “Our talent level has never been better in our two years.”

He said there’s no weak points in the defense.

“You start with your lines. And we have such solid lines on both sides of the ball now. Then that fans out to your other positions.”

The team played a full scrimmage Saturday night, but kept most of the starters out and concentrated on getting reserves into game-type situations.

“We played a 115-play scrimmage,” Ostrowsky said. “It was competitive.”

While the team will continue to work out in the time leading up to the opener, he wants to make sure his players remain healthy.

“Our primary goal in these next two weeks is to regain our freshness,” Ostrowsky said. “Our pace has been really good in fall camp, now we just start getting ready for our first opponent.”

Northern was 3-7 last season both overall and in the GLIAC. The Wildcats are looking for their first winning season since 2009, when the team was 6-4 and won four of five at home.

The previous winning campaign before that came in 2002 with a 6-5 mark and their last NCAA Division II playoff berth was in 1987, when the ‘Cats went 9-1 in the regular season, including a 9-0 GLIAC mark, before winning at Angelo State (Texas) 23-20 in overtime and falling at Portland State (Oregon) 13-7 in the D2 semifinals.

The school has one NCAA championship, that coming in 1975 under head coach Gil Krueger and quarterback Steve Mariucci, when the Wildcats defeated Boise State (Idaho) and Livingston (Alabama) in its first two playoff games before edging Western Kentucky 16-14 in the finals at Sacramento, California.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.