HOUGHTON, Mich. – In a contest where defense was the name of the game, the Michigan Tech football team fell 10-0 to Saginaw Valley State University in a low scoring Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference contest on Homecoming at Sherman Field Saturday afternoon. The Huskies had a couple of potential opportunities to notch points, but were unable to punch the ball into the end zone.
"Both teams came out and fought today and we expected it to be a close game," Michigan Tech Head Coach Steve Olson said. "They had a big pass play early in the third quarter and aside from that it was a dog fight out there to score points. We were able to get down into the Red-Zone a couple of times and I thought we moved the ball well; we just weren't able to finish off drives for points."
The defenses made their mark early in Saturday's game, with interceptions ending drives for each offense. Michigan Tech (2-3, 0-3 GLIAC) opened the game with the ball and moved into Saginaw Valley State (5-0, 2-0 GLIAC) territory. Unfortunately, The Huskies' drive ended when Joe Newman intercepted a pass on the Cardinals 39 yard-line, halting the forward march by Tech.
However, the Tech defense got the ball right back on the very next play. Freshman defensive back Kevin Lee picked off a Ryan Conklin pass deep down the middle of the field and returned it 14 yards to the Huskies 37-yard line. Tech had to eventually kick it away, beginning a series of possessions for both teams which ended with punts or a turnover.
With 3:10 left in the first quarter, the Huskies took over at their own 32-yard line and reeled off good yardage to move the ball inside the Cardinals 25-yard line. Senior running back James Henderson powered forward for a pair of nine-yard runs while sophomore quarterback Will Ark found junior wide receiver Ben Hartley for a 27-yard completion. The drive stalled though on a fourth and one when the SVSU defense stopped Henderson short of the sticks on a running play. The Huskies ended up going for it on fourth down nine times in Saturday's game and had four successful conversions.
The Cardinals were able to get on the scoreboard in the early moments of the second quarter. Connor Luksic connected on a 25-yard field goal to make it a 3-0 score. Saginaw Valley State had driven inside the 10-yard line, but the defense shut down the Cardinals before they could break the plain of the goal line.
Luksic's field goal would be the only scoring in the opening half. The Huskies failed to convert on fourth down at the SVSU 35-yard line with 3:43 left in the second quarter and the Cardinals were able to move the ball the other way into the Red-Zone. With their backs against the wall, the Huskies' defense stood tall again. Senior defensive lineman Xavier Ciardo stopped running back Nate McCrary for no gain, sophomore defensive lineman Jimmie Cannon hurried Conklin into an incompletion, and junior defensive back Travis Tidwell broke up a pass to force the Cardinals into a field goal attempt. This time, Luksic missed wide right to keep it a 3-0 score with seven seconds left in the half.
The Cardinals got the ball to start the second half and quickly put seven points on the board. On second down from their 35-yard line, Conklin fired a pass down the seam to Chad Gailliard who went 65-yards for the touchdown with 13:26 on the third quarter clock. The extra point by Luksic made it a 10-0 contest and those point totals would wind up being the final tally.
On the ensuing possession, Tech engineered a 16 play 67-yard drive that eventually moved the ball down to the Saginaw Valley State four-yard line. Unfortunately, things stalled on an incomplete pass on a fourth and one play.
The Huskies got the ball back off an SVSU punt and were knocking on the door again at the Cardinals 13-yard line early in the fourth quarter. A false start penalty followed by a sack by the duo of Heath Williams and Patrik Moriarty ended the threat to the SVSU end zone. Tech was able to drive the ball down to the SVSU 25-yard line with under a minute to go, but an interception from Donnell Alexander sealed the win for the Cardinals.
Ark completed 19 passes for 152 yards while Henderson carried the ball 20 times for 60 yards to lead the ground attack. Ark added 34 yards on eight carries and completed six of his passes to Hartley for 57 yards. Senior wide receiver Jacob Wenzlick also reeled in six passes for 45 yards and had three rushes for 27 yards. He also picked up 67 yards on two kickoff returns. As a team, the Huskies had 271 yards of total offense with 152 yards through the air and 119 on the ground.
Junior linebacker Marvin Wright led the defense with 10 tackles followed by senior defensive back Graham Hubbell with nine stops. Lee had four tackles and his first career interception while senior defensive end Garrett Ross recorded a sack, two tackles for a loss, and one pass breakup. The Huskies limited the Cardinals to just 2.5 yards per carry and forced seven punts.
Conklin completed 10 passes for 161 yards and had one touchdown for the Cardinals on Saturday. His favorite target was Gailliard who reeled in five catches for 107 yards and the lone TD. Jermaih Johnson powered the ground game with 60 yards on 16 carries. Saginaw Valley State had 250 yards of total offense, but only 89 rushing yards.
Michael Alexander had a team high 13 tackles while Heath Williams logged six stops, 1.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for a loss. Justin Whitted, Newman, and Alexander each had interceptions. In addition, the Cardinals defense combined to breakup nine passes. Saginaw Valley State's defense leads the GLIAC in total interceptions (10) and sacks this season (16).
The Huskies will try and bounce back next Saturday when they battle fourth ranked Ferris State at Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock, Michigan.
"Ferris State is a very good football team so we have to get ready to go on the road and play well," Olson added. "It's a unique site which will be fun for the players and fans so we have to work hard again this week to get ready for the Bulldogs."
Ferris State remained unbeaten with a 28-21 win over Ashland at home on Saturday. Next weekend's kick off is scheduled for 2 p.m.