DETROIT - For the second-straight season, the Northern Michigan University football team had a victory over Wayne State in its sights.
And for the second-straight season, the Wildcats watched the win vanish in the closing seconds.
Northern rallied from 21 points down to tie the game late in the fourth quarter on Saturday, but the Warriors punched in the game-winning touchdown with 1:16 to play for a 38-31 GLIAC and Homecoming victory at Adams Field in Detroit.
Last season, NMU fell behind 24-0 on its own Homecoming at the Superior Dome and pulled within two with 48 seconds left.
The 'Cats recovered the ensuing onside kick, but the potential game-winning drive against the eventual NCAA Division II national runners up stalled on the NMU 43, giving the Warriors a 30-28 win.
On Saturday, Wayne State (5-2 overall, 5-2 in GLIAC) recovered an onside kick to start the second half that led to a Toney Smith 3-yard touchdown. A WSU field goal with 4:19 remaining in the third quarter made it a 31-10 game, in favor of the Warriors.
Northern (2-6, 1-6) pulled within two touchdowns with eight seconds left in the third after junior Casey Cotta ran in his second touchdown of the afternoon to go with his 100 yards on 17 carries.
NMU senior quarterback Cody Scepaniak, who was making his second collegiate start with redshirt freshman QB Ryan Morley sidelined for a second-straight week with a concussion, ran in an 8-yard TD with 12:08 left in the game to pull NMU within seven.
Scepaniak tied the game at 31-31 with 2:21 remaining in regulation on 3rd and 13 via a 25-yard pass to junior wide receiver Christian Jessie, who brought down the pass one handed to cap the 10-play, 81-yard drive.
Starting with 1:09 on the clock and two timeouts following the Dominique Maybanks 16-yard game-winning Warriors touchdown, Scepaniak drove NMU to the WSU 28 with eight seconds left.
Northern burned both of its timeouts in that eight seconds with the first coming on a 23-yard completion to freshman running back Austin Young of Escanaba that got NMU to the 28 and the second with three seconds to go following an incompletion to freshman receiver Terrance Dye.
An interception by Scepaniak - who finished 18 of 30 passing for 229 yards, a touchdown and an interception, plus 60 yards rushing on 16 carries - in the end zone as time expired capped the Warriors' win.
Northern's defense was unable to stop Wayne State's four-play, 70-yard, 1:03 game-winning drive, but the D was largely responsible for NMU tying the game.
A tipped pass by NMU senior defensive tackle Zach Anderson and interception by redshirt freshman defensive end Matt Smith led to Scepaniak's scoring drive early in the fourth quarter.
An interception by Eddie Knoblock ended a WSU drive with 10:45 remaining on the NMU 38, though no points came off the turnover.
NMU then forced a quick three and out for the WSU offense to set up the Wildcats' game-tying drive.
Notes: In addition to junior Christian Marble-King being out for the season, NMU was without sophomore receiver Julian Gaines, who got injured late in the week in practice. ... Freshman Sterlin Darling led NMU in receiving with six catches for 118 yards. ... NMU senior kicker Rockne Belmonte made a 36-yard field goal in the first quarter to full within three field goals made of the career record at NMU. ... Northern plays its final road game of the season on next week at noon on Saturday at Northwood (4-3, 3-3).