HOUGHTON, Mich. – The Michigan Tech football team broke through for a 23-20 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference victory over Wayne State Saturday afternoon at Sherman Field. It was a complete performance for the Huskies with big plays made by the offense, defense, and special teams.
"I thought our team did a great job all the way around and I'm very proud of the effort our players gave today," Michigan Tech Head Coach Steve Olson said. "We had a good game plan and were able to execute a lot of different things in all three phases of the game. Offensively, I thought we had some big plays in the passing game and ran the ball very effectively. Special teams came through with a huge blocked punt that we were able to convert for the touchdown. From a defensive standpoint, we were able to get them off schedule in the second half which created opportunities for our defensive line to cut loose and rush the passer. Overall, it was a great win for us today on Hall of Fame Weekend."
Michigan Tech (3-4, 1-4 GLIAC) overcame a bit of a slow start in the first half as Wayne State (1-6, 0-4 GLIAC) opened up a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter. The Warriors went 60 yards in 11 plays on their second possession of the game before the Huskies' defense halted the drive at their own 11-yard line . Paul Graham booted a 29-yard field goal with 6:08 to go in the first quarter to make it a 3-0 score.
Junior punter Michael James pinned the Warriors deep into their own territory at the six-yard line near the end of the first quarter on a 40-yard punt. However, Wayne State was able to cover the 94 yards in 11 plays, culminating on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Jake AmRhein to Darece Roberson for a 10-0 Warrior lead with 11:21 remaining on the second quarter clock.
The Huskies were then able to find a rhythm offensively in the second quarter, churning up big yardage on the ground courtesy of freshman running back Jared Smith who went on to rack up 198 yards in his second career start. Tech was unable to connect on a field goal with just over six minutes to go in the second, but put a triple on the board on the final play of the half.
The Huskies took over possession at their own 20-yard line with 2:56 to play until the break. Smith reeled off nine yards on the second play from scrimmage and then powered forward for two-yards to convert a first down. Tech's offense then dialed up a trick play as junior wide receiver Ben Hartley caught a lateral on the left side and fired the ball downfield to senior wide receiver Jacob Wenzlick for a 65-yard gain. Tech eventually settled for a 20-yard field goal from freshman kicker Eric Zeboor on the final play of the half, to make it a 10-3 score in favor of the Warriors as both teams headed into the locker room.
Michigan Tech had deferred possession to start the game and got the ball first to open the third quarter. On a second and nine from the 39-yard line, sophomore quarterback Will Ark went to the air to find sophomore wide receiver Jordan Janssen for a 47-yard pass and catch. Three plays later, Ark scrambled away from pressure and carried the ball across the goal line from 11-yards out for his team leading third rushing score of the season. Zeboor's extra point deadlocked the game at 10-10 with 10:36 to go in the third period.
Tech's defense got the Warriors' offense off schedule on the ensuing possession, thanks to a big stop for a six-yard loss from senior defensive lineman Xavier Ciardo when he brought down running back Kyle Lewis on a 1st and 10 play. Wayne State eventually had to line up in punt formation facing a fourth and 16 from their own 31.
Freshman linebacker John Paramski broke through the punt protection to block the kick, the first of his career. The ball rolled all the way back to the 11-yard line where freshman defensive back Kevin Lee picked it up and ran it into the end zone for the touchdown, giving the Huskies a 17-10 lead. It was the third blocked punt by the Huskies this year and the first that was taken back for a touchdown since the 2017 season opener against Truman State. That night, James Henderson blocked the punt with Graham Hubbell carrying it in to the end zone.
The two teams exchanged field goals on the next two possessions of Saturday's game. Graham connected on a 26-yard kick with 4:20 to play in the third to draw the Warriors to within four at 17-13. The Huskies though were able to counter with a triple of their own to push the spread back to seven points.
Smith reeled off 35-yards on the ground and with a 15-yard penalty by Wayne State tacked on at the end of the play, the Huskies found themselves at the Warriors 25. Unfortunately, the drive stalled and Zeboor was called upon to attempt a season long 43-yard field goal. Zeboor came through with a successful kick through the uprights to make it a 20-13 score in favor of Tech on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Wayne State got the ball back and put together a 13 play touchdown drive to tie the score at 20-20 with 7:27 left in the fourth. James Hill was able to turn the corner on a run to the left side, resulting in a two-yard touchdown for the Warriors. Hill had five carries in the drive that covered 56 yards.
Michigan Tech rallied to slip back in front with Zeboor's third field goal of the afternoon. After the Wayne State kickoff sailed out of bounds, the Huskies found themselves with good field position at their own 35. On the first play from scrimmage, Smith bolted forward for 42 yards down to the Wayne State 23. He then picked up six more yards to position the ball at the 17, but the Huskies were unable to progress any further. Zeboor stepped out on the field again and powered a 34-yard kick through the uprights to make it a 23-20 score in favor of Tech.
The Huskies defense then stepped up to shut down the Warriors on their final two possessions of the afternoon. Sophomore defensive lineman Nathan Beining sacked AmRhein for a 12-yard loss to force a punt. On what would be the last possession of the game for Wayne State, sophomore defensive lineman Jimmie Cannon notched his first sack of the year on a crucial second and five play which cost the Warriors six yards. Two incomplete passes by AmRhein gave the ball back to the Huskies who were able to run out the clock for the win.
The Huskies churned out a season high 236 yards rushing Saturday, with Smith picking up the bulk of that total with 198 yards on 26 carries. He averaged an impressive 7.6 yards per carry in his second career collegiate start. Ark completed seven passes for 47 yards while Hartley connected on one pass for 65 yards. Ark added 10-yards on the ground with a rushing touchdown. Wenzlick led the receivers with two receptions for 69 yards followed by Janssen with two catches for 48 yards. Michigan Tech converted on 17 first downs and had 361 yards of total offense.
Freshman defensive backs Tai Allen and Braxton Blackwell led the Huskies with nine stops apiece in the victory. Blackwell added a tackle for a loss and one pass breakup. Junior linebacker Marvin Wright had one of four sacks by the Tech defense, 1.5 tackles for a loss and seven total stops. Ciardo, Cannon, and Beining were the other Huskies to get to the quarterback. Ciardo led the Huskies with two tackles for a loss, forced a fumble and had one pass breakup. Paramski added two tackles and had the blocked punt while Lee found the end zone on the block.
AmRhein completed 14 of 22 passes for 175 yards and one touchdown to lead the Wayne State offense. DeOntay Moffett had 18 carries for 84 yards and Hills added 72 yards on 13 carries, including a touchdown. Ray Williams-Jackson caught two passes for 59 yards to pace the receivers. Tech's defense limited the Warriors to 321 yards of total offense.
Brandon Tuck-Hayden had a game high 11 tackles with 1.5 tackles for a loss included in those totals. Tieler Houston followed with 10 tackles, one sack, 1.5 tackles for a loss, and in interception to power the Warriors defense.
The Huskies will go on the road next weekend when they head to Ohio to battle Ashland University in another GLIAC contest. The kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.