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Huskies Claim the Miner’s Cup with 51-45 Thriller in OT

Huskies Claim the Miner’s Cup with 51-45 Thriller in OT

MARQUETTE, Mich. – The Michigan Tech football team outlasted Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference rival Northern Michigan University in overtime 51-45 to keep the Miner's Cup Saturday afternoon. In a game that seesawed back and forth the entire day, junior running back John Williams dove into the corner of the end zone from nine yards out on the final play to win the game.

"We made some mistakes out there today, but we played hard and we found enough plays to get the win," Michigan Tech Head Coach Tom Kearly said. "We blocked a punt which was huge and I thought the play of the game was Derek Cingel's strip to force the fumble in the first overtime when all they had to do was kick the field goal to win. We were able to hold them again on a missed field goal and then go get the win on the touchdown. It was a great football game and we were fortunate to win, but when you win seven in a row, somewhere you are doing something right."

When it comes to the Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan game, the chances are good it will be a hard fought game, feature some great plays, and heart pounding action. The 2016 edition of the Miner's Cup was no exception.

Northern Michigan (3-7, 3-6 GLIAC) took the ball first and eventually moved into field goal range, but couldn't capitalize. Freshman Glacier Wallington broke up a pass from Shaye Brown to Paris Woods on a third and three play to force a 43-yard field goal attempt. It would prove to be one of many big plays as Tyler Blackburn pushed the field goal attempt wide right to keep the contest scoreless.

Michigan Tech (4-5, 4-5 GLIAC) then drove the ball into Northern Michigan territory, but the drive stalled out at the 47-yard line of the Wildcats. As he has done on many occasions this season, senior punter Ryan VanGoethem dropped the ball inside the 20 on the NMU two-yard line with 6:52 left in the first quarter. That would lead to the first two points of the game when sophomore defensive lineman Cody Goldsworthy sacked Brown in the end zone for a safety. It was the first safety for the Huskies since Brett Gervais recorded a two pointer at Malone on September 13th, 2014.

Unfortunately, on the free kick the Wildcats cats recovered a Tech fumble which led to the first touchdown for either side on the afternoon. Running back Jake Mayon scampered in to the end zone from 16 yards out and with the extra point, NMU had a 7-2 lead.

The Huskies were back in front 7:30 minutes later thanks to a 15 play drive that culminated on a one-yard touchdown run by junior fullback Alex Sherbinow. A mix of solid runs by senior running back Kevin Miller and key completions from Brandon Cowie moved the ball 75 yards for a 9-7 edge.

The advantage switched sides quickly with NMU coming back for another touchdown just over three minutes later. Jake Mayon gained 51 of the 76 yards on a touchdown run to make it a 14-9 score with 8:18 to go until halftime.

The Huskies took over again on their 25-yard line on the ensuing possession and invaded Wildcat territory before being forced to punt. VanGoethem was able to get the punt away under pressure and on the return attempt Jon Washington fumbled the football at the 20. The ball bounced back to the 15-yard line of the Wildcats where junior linebacker Derrick Diver fell on the loose ball. Cowie reeled off five yards on the ground and then Williams maneuvered his way to the end zone from 10-yards out to give the Huskies a 16-14 lead with just under five minutes remaining in the second quarter.

Northern Michigan would go on to score 14 unanswered points to close the half and carry a 28-16 advantage into the locker room at halftime. Brown connected with Paris Woods on a 13-yard touchdown pass with 2:43 left and then found Michael Akinlade on a 63-yard pass with 41 seconds to go until halftime.

Neither team could generate points on their respective possessions to start the third quarter, but Tech climbed to within one possession again when they touched the ball for the second time in the half. Williams along with Cowie played key roles on the scoring jaunt that covered 65 yards in nine plays. Williams took the ball down to the three-yard line and then Sherbinow powered the ball across the goal line two plays later to slice the deficit to 28-23.

The Wildcats then picked up a 35-yard field goal by from Blackburn with 3:46 to go in the third quarter, but it remained just a one possession game at that point 31-23. The Huskies got the ball back on their 21-yard line and following a completion from Cowie to Ian Fischer for seven yards, running back James Henderson broke loose for a 72-yard touchdown run. It was the longest play from scrimmage for the Tech offense this season. Cowie deadlocked the game at 31-31 on a two-point conversion run over right tackle.

The points continued to pile up as Northern Michigan and Tech traded points on the next two possessions. The Wildcats sprinted in front again on a 46-yard touchdown pass to Paris Woods with 29 seconds remaining in the third quarter. However, the Huskies countered and tied the game up again early in the fourth quarter. The drive was eight plays and went 72 yards with Fischer hauling in a 34-yard pass from Williams to setup a seven-yard touchdown run by Cowie. Junior kicker Josh King split the uprights with the extra point to tie the game again at 38-38.

It appeared as if Northern Michigan would take the lead again after moving the ball down to the Tech 15-yard line. However, receiver Walter Jackson coughed up the football and Diver covered the ball at the 16-yard line to thwart the drive.

After a Tech punt, the Wildcats got the ball back but the Huskies' defense stood tall to force a punt. The Tech special teams then came up with another big play when Henderson blocked the punt by John Kwiecinski which setup the offense at the NMU 15. Miller then punched the ball in with 56 seconds to go in regulation, giving the Huskies a 45-38 lead.

The Wildcats did not go quietly and a 59-yard kick return by Keshawn Walker gave NMU new life with 39 seconds to play at the Tech 41. The Wildcats brought the ball down to the Tech 18-yard line with 14 seconds to go and on fourth and one, Brown hit Jaranta Lewis in the back of the end zone for the game tying score.

In a rare occasion for overtime in college football, Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan both failed to score on their first possession. The Huskies took the ball first and the drive, which started at the Wildcat 25-yard line, ended in a missed field. NMU needed just three points to get the win, but a fumble by Mayon on a third and two play gave the Huskies a chance to keep fighting. Junior defensive back Derek Cingel made a great play by stripping the ball loose to force the second overtime frame.

The Wildcats had the first opportunity on offense in overtime number two and had to settle for a 44-yard field goal attempt by Blackburn. Senior defensive lineman Evan Mayer came up with a huge sack that pushed the Wildcats momentarily behind the 30-yard line. Blackburn's kick ended up hooking wide left and the Huskies got the ball back needing only a field goal to win.

Four plays later Tech emerged victorious when Williams took the ball to the house for a nine-yard touchdown run. Cowie started the drive with a nine-yard pass completion to Fischer followed by four straight running plays to cap the 51-45 victory.

Cowie finished the day completing 18 of 26 passes for 148 yards while Miller and Williams each broke the 80-yard barrier on the ground. Miller had 19 carries for 87 yards with a touchdown and Williams closed the afternoon with 84 yards on 12 carries with two touchdowns. Henderson had one run for the 72-yard score, Cowie rushed nine times for 51 yards, a touchdown, and a clutch two-point conversion. Sherbinow found the end zone twice and picked up some other key first downs in short yardage situations.

Fischer paced the receivers with five receptions for 74 yards followed by senior David Walter who had four catches for 47 yards. Williams caught one pass for 11 yards and completed another for 34 yards on the day. As a team, the Huskies posted a season high in points, total yards (488), rushing yards (306), and total plays (75).

Defensively, freshman linebacker Marvin Wright had a team high 14 tackles followed by junior linebacker Derek Diver who secured a career high 12 tackles and two fumble recoveries. Goldsworthy and Mayer each had sacks while Cingel and Wallington both forced fumbles. Wallington also broke up a pass and blocked the second half punt.

Brown completed 23 of 33 passes for 293 yards and four touchdowns while Mayon led all ball carriers with 240 yards on 33 carries with two touchdowns to power the NMU offense. Woods was the leading receiver, hauling in four passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns. The Wildcats generated 540 yards of total offense with 293 through the air and 247 on the ground. Defensively, Pat Ryan was the top tackler with 13 total stops on the afternoon.

The Huskies will return to Houghton on Saturday for the final game of the 2016 season against the University of Findlay at Sherman Field. Saturdays kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. and the 2016 seniors will be honored on the field prior to kick off as part of Senior Day festivities.