HOUGHTON, Mich. — Michigan Tech closed out its 2013 football season with another tight victory, defeating Wayne State 28-21 on Senior Day at Sherman Field. Senior linebacker Taylor Ziolkowski had a career-high 17 tackles plus the game-clinching interception in the final minute help the Huskies finish 6-4.
Tech's defense held the Warriors on downs twice in the fourth quarter and got the key takeaway when Ziolkowski intercepted a WSU pass at the Tech six-yard line with 29 seconds left to preserve a seven-point lead.
"Defensively, we played well all day," said head coach Tom Kearly. "We gave up some points, but Wayne was working with short fields because of our offensive mistakes. The defense came up with the big plays when we needed them, and Z (Ziolkowski) made a great pick to end it."
Tech found itself trailing at halftime for just the third time on the season. Despite scoring on their opening drive (a two-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Scarlett to Ian Wienke in the back of the endzone), the Huskies could not sustain drives the rest of the half. The results of the four possessions after the touchdown: interception, punt, interception, interception.
The Warriors took advantage on each of the last two turnovers, scoring touchdowns on both to take a 14-7 margin into the break.
Tech opened the second half with a 76-yard drive to tie the game. Charlie Leffingwell capped the march with a nine-yard touchdown run.
WSU regained the lead later in the third quarter after back-to-back 20-yard runs from Desmond Martin. That left the score 21-14.
The Huskies scored again right away with Scarlett finding Andrew Clark for a 41-yard touchdown. On the play, Scarlett became Tech's career passing leader, surpassing Steve Short's (2006-10) mark of 7,471 yards.
After forcing the Warriors to punt, Tech drove and scored again for the eventual game-winning points. Scarlett hit on passes of 34 and 28 yards on the drive before finding senior fullback Cole Welch in the endzone for a 28-21 lead with 14:16 remaining.
Tech held WSU on downs in Warrior territory on the ensuing possession, but missed a 24-yard field goal that would have made it a two-score game.
The visitors then ran 15 consecutive running plays on an eight-minute drive. The final play—a fourth-and-three at the Tech 12—was stuffed, giving the offense a chance to run out the clock for the win.
Backup running back Kevin Miller picked up one first down, but fumbled two plays later. Wayne recovered at the Tech 35 with 54 seconds and a timeout left to have a chance to tie the score.
WSU quarterback Doug Griffin hit Dominique Maybanks for a 15-yard gain on the first play, but was intercepted by Ziolkowski at the six-yard line on the next play to seal the game.
"I was just flowing with the quarterback's eyes a little bit, and happened to be in the right place at the right time," said Ziolkowski. "I wanted to leave everything on the field with no regrets today."
Ziolkowski's 17-tackle day included 12 solos. He finished the season as Tech's leading tackler with 93. Brett Gervais had eight tackles—all solo—to finish second on the team with 72.
Scarlett completed 15-of-24 passes for 217 yards and three touchdowns. He finished his season with 2,552 yards (44 shy of his own school record season mark). For his career, he sits at 7,557 yards heading into his senior season.
The win gave the Tech football program four consecutive winning seasons and the nine-member senior class a 28-13 record—most wins by any Huskies' senior class since 1976.
"Everyone knows Michigan Tech as a great academic school," said senior offensive lineman Chris Mullen. "The fact that we've made a name for ourselves as a football school gives us a lot of pride."
"That this senior class had more wins than any in the last 40 years speaks for itself," added Kearly.
Michigan Tech finished fourth in the GLIAC North Division with a 6-4 record.