HOUGHTON, Mich. – The Michigan Tech football team suffered a tough 20-14 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference loss Saturday afternoon to Wayne State at Sherman Field. The Huskies pulled out to a 14-6 lead early in the second quarter, but 14 unanswered points by the Warriors proved to be the difference in the game.
"It was a tough loss for us today," Michigan Tech Head Coach Steve Olson said. "Just like every week, our kids go out there and work and prepare hard. In our league, we always say games are going to be close, hard fought, and often times come down to a few plays. You don't know when those plays are going to happen. They could happen in the first quarter or they could happen in the fourth quarter. Wayne State came out here and played very well and I give them credit because they finished the game off. We have to regroup this week, bounce back, and get ready to face Davenport next Saturday."
The game started slowly offensively for both teams with neither Michigan Tech (3-5, 2-4 GLIAC) nor Wayne State (3-5, 2-4 GLIAC) able to get much going on the first possessions. The Warriors eventually took over on their own 20-yard line for their second series on offense of the afternoon with 10:53 to go in the first quarter. They moved the ball to the Huskies' 27-yard line with a few short runs and passes, setting up a 27-yard touchdown burst on the ground by Demetrius Stinson.
However, senior defensive back Spencer Moran would knife in to block the extra point to keep it at 6-0 with 5:14 on the first quarter clock. It was the second blocked kick for Moran this season and the fourth time Tech has blocked a kick as a team in 2017. The blocked extra point was the first since Tanner Agen did it against Ashland on November 8th, 2014.
It didn't take long for the Huskies to respond and take the lead away from Wayne State. On the ensuing kickoff, sophomore wide receiver Jacob Wenzlick hauled in the kick at his own seven-yard line and found a seam down the right sideline. He split the Warriors coverage team and raced all the way to the end zone for a 93-yard touchdown return.
It was his first career kickoff return for a touchdown and he finished the day with 197 return yards on five attempts. Sophomore kicker Evan Gornick drove the ball through the uprights on the extra pint, giving the Huskies a 7-6 edge with 5:01 left in the first quarter.
The Warriors appeared to be on their way to regaining the lead late in the first quarter, moving the ball all the way down to the Tech 16-yard line. Sophomore quarterback Dakota Kupp mishandled the football and senior linebacker Derrick Diver fell on it at the 15 to give it back to the Huskies' offense.
Michigan Tech took advantage of the miscue and engineered a 13 play 85-yard scoring drive to extend the advantage to 14-6. Senior tailback John Williams had 11-yard and 26-yard carries early in the possession while senior quarterback Jake Brown connected on a 16-yard pass to sophomore fullback Jordan Ferguson. Brown then delivered a critical five-yard pass on a fourth down play to sophomore wide receiver Ben Hartley, setting up an eventual 13-yard touchdown jaunt by Williams with 12:05 on the second quarter clock. For Williams, it was his 11th rushing touchdown of the season.
Wayne State would answer Tech's touchdown with a field goal to draw within five points with just over five minutes left until the break. The Warriors had driven the ball down to Tech's nine-yard line, but a personal foul penalty had a hand in forcing the field goal attempt. Paul Graham was able to convert on the 45-yard kick to make it a 14-9 score.
Michigan Tech got the ball to start the second half, but unfortunately the drive stalled on the Wayne State 28-yard line when the Huskies were unable to convert on fourth down. The Warriors then went 72-yards and regained the lead on a 32-yard touchdown pass from Kupp to wide receiver Manny Mendoza with 7:33 to play in the third quarter. Kupp then found wide receiver Corey Ester on a slant pass for the two-point conversion, making it a 17-14 score.
A series of punts ensued for both sides until early in the fourth quarter when a fumble by the Huskies set up another field goal by Wayne State. The Warriors had a touchdown negated on a holding penalty and had to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Graham which extended the gap for Tech to 20-14 with 11:20 to play in the contest.
The Huskies were unable to counter and forced to punt with 6:59 left to play after facing a fourth and 16 at the Wayne State 37-yard line on the ensuing drive. The Warriors got the ball back on their 20-yard line and never returned it to the Huskies. A series of runs by Romello Brown moved the chains, including a six-yard run on fourth down to keep the drive and clock running.
Williams powered the Tech offense with 76 yards on 11 carries followed by senior tailback James Henderson with 49 yards on 13 touches. Brown completed 13 passes for 125 yards and his two favorite targets were Wenzlick and senior wide receiver David Falish. Wenzlick caught five passes for 51 yards and Falish hauled in four receptions for 50 yards. Wenzlick ended the afternoon with 254 all-purpose yards.
As a team, the Huskies posted 250 yards of total offense with 125 of them coming through the ground game. Tech has eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark as a team in all eight games this season.
Defensively, sophomore linebacker Marvin Wright racked up 11 tackles followed by junior safety Graham Hubbell with 10 stops. Moran recorded six tackles and a blocked kick, followed by sophomore defensive back Travis Tidwell, Diver, and senior defensive lineman Cayman Berg-Morales with six tackles apiece.
Brown and Stinson guided the Wayne State offense on Saturday as each running back surpassing 100 rushing yards. Brown chewed up 113 yards on 25 carries while Stinson ended the game with 107 yards and a touchdown on 14 attempts. Kupp completed 12 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown. Mendoza paced the team in receiving yards with 43 on two catches which included the touchdown. The Warriors finished the game with 370 yards of offense thanks to an effective running attack that accounted for 243 yards.
Linebacker Anthony Pittman had eight tackles and a sack for the Warriors defense while safety Kyle Toth and defensive back James Howard had seven tackles each. Howard also forced a fumble in Saturday's contest.
The Huskies will look to bounce back on Saturday when they host Davenport in a GLIAC showdown at Sherman Field. The Panthers narrowly lost at Northwood on Saturday in overtime 33-30. Saturday's kickoff is slated for 1 p.m.