HOUGHTON, Mich. – The Michigan Tech football team fell to Davenport in the 2018 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference opener 23-21 Saturday afternoon at Sherman Field. The Panthers scored 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarter after the Huskies had built a 21-10 advantage.
"We didn't start the way we wanted to today," Michigan Tech Head Coach Steve Olson said. "It was a 7-3 game in our favor at halftime, but we made too many mistakes. We had a chance to put the game away and had a decent lead in the fourth quarter, but we didn't get it done. We have to be better. We need to finish games off and play for four quarters.
"We have to be able to rebound next week. We play in a good conference against good football teams and you have to be able to bounce back from games like this. We have to get back to work this week and have great practices in preparation for Grand Valley State on the road next week."
Davenport (3-0, 1-0 GLIAC) got the upper hand 3-0 in the first quarter with the only points in the opening 15 minutes. Both offenses had sluggish starts to the game until the Panthers were able to produce an 82-yard scoring drive with 3:13 left in the first. Davenport moved the ball inside the Michigan Tech (2-1, 0-1 GLIAC) 10-yard line, but the defense got a stop and limited the Panthers to just the three points.
The Huskies were then able to take the lead midway through the second quarter on a 53-yard touchdown strike from quarterback Will Ark to wide receiver Ben Hartley. Tech's defense had forced a Davenport punt from inside the 15-yard line which set the Huskies' offense up in great field position at the 47-yard line. Hartley got behind the Panther's defense on the first play of the drive to make the catch and give the Huskies a 7-3 edge.
The scoreboard didn't change again until the early moments of the third quarter when Davenport slipped back in front on a Haiden Majewski 21-yard touchdown pass to Keion Powers with 9:47 on the clock. It was the first of three touchdown receptions on the afternoon for Powers.
Outstanding punting from Tech kicker Michael James kept the Panthers offense pinned back in the shadow of their goal line for a good portion of the second half, limiting Davenport's scoring opportunities while giving the Tech offense time to regroup. Meanwhile, following a five-yard Davenport punt, the Huskies setup shop offensively in great field position at their own 45-yard line late in the third quarter.
Running back James Henderson broke loose for a 12-yard run followed by a 13-yard pass from Ark to Hartley. Tech eventually faced a third and three at the Davenport 23-yard line with just over 13 minutes left in the fourth quarter. Under a good amount of pressure, Ark stepped up in the pocket and delivered a 23-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Kevin Kirkland, giving the Huskies a 14-10 lead with kicker Eric Zeboor's extra point.
On the ensuing kickoff, Zeboor drove the ball into the corner at the Davenport two-yard line and returner William Gist was only able to bring the ball out to the eight-yard line due to solid coverage by the special teams. The Huskies' defense forced a three and out and the offense took over in great field position again at the Panthers 31-yard line after an 11-yard kick return courtesy of wide receiver Jacob Wenzlick.
On the scoring drive, Tech converted a key fourth down play on a six-yard pass from Ark to fullback Jordan Ferguson at the Davenport 20-yard line to move the chains. Henderson then had a run of nine yards and caught an eight yard pass from Ark to place the ball down at the three. Henderson got the call again and plowed his way into the end zone for a Tech touchdown with 7:30 left in the fourth quarter. Zeboor's extra point extended the Huskies' lead to 21-10.
However, the Panthers didn't go away and gave themselves new life when Majewski delivered a 68-yard touchdown pass to Powers with 4:28 remaining in Saturday's game. The defense prevented a successful two-point conversion attempt, but the Panthers were suddenly back within one possession at a score of 21-16.
Davenport's defense forced a three and out on Tech's next offensive drive and got the ball back at their 23-yard line with just under three minutes to go. The Panthers moved down the field and avoided two-potential turnovers that would have given the ball back to the Huskies. The Panthers recovered their own fumble and Majewski nearly threw an interception inside the Tech 20-yard line.
Unfortunately, on fourth and seven from the Huskies' 12, Majewski completed what would be the game winning touchdown pass with 10 seconds on the clock. Powers leaped into the air and got a foot down in the back of the end zone for the score and his third touchdown of the day, resulting in the 23-21 final.
Ark led the Huskies' offense, completing 15 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns, his second and third TD strikes of the 2018 campaign. Henderson had 20 carries for 44 yards and his second rushing touchdown of the season while adding two catches for 40-yards in the passing game. Hartley paced the receiving corps with a career high six receptions for 138 yards and a touchdown, his second of 2018.
The Huskies compiled 292 yards of total offense with the majority coming through the air at 264. Tech maintained possession of the ball for 28:01 and ran 63 offensive plays.
Strong safety Braxton Blackwell led the defense with 10 tackles, including a tackle for a loss and one pass breakup. Defensive back Michael Betz and linebacker Marshael Ryan followed with nine stops each. Linebacker Marvin Wright wrapped up the game with eight tackles, including two for a loss, a forced fumble, and two pass breakups. Defensive lineman Mattias Hoehnen and defensive end Garrett Ross came up with sacks. As a team, Tech's defense logged 10 tackles for a loss.
Majewski connected on 20 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns. Power caught those three scores and rolled up 126 yards on seven total receptions. Seth Acda was the leading rusher with 14 carries for 65 yards. The Panthers had 375 yards of total offense on Saturday.
C.J. Thorton and Jamal Veazey had eight tackles apiece to lead the Panthers defense. Thorton also forced a fumble, had a sack, and 2.5 tackles for a loss. Derrick Calloway posted seven tackles and a game high 3.5 tackles for a loss.
The Huskies will look to bounce back next Saturday when they travel to Allendale to face 5th ranked Grand Valley State University in another GLIAC contest. The kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.