MARQUETTE, Mich. - The Miner's Cup will remain in Houghton for the ninth straight year thanks to a 35-33 Michigan Tech victory over rival Northern Michigan at the Superior Dome on Saturday. The Huskies rallied from a 14-0 deficit to take a 35-21 lead in the second half. The Wildcats battled back to get within two, but Tech stopped the Northern Michigan offense on a two-point conversion with 49 seconds to play to seal the win.
"It was a typical game between the two teams this afternoon," Michigan Tech Head Coach Steve Olson said. "Both teams fought hard and competed very well and it came down to a two-point conversion play for them to tie and we managed to get a stop. Our ability to move the ball and get the ball in the end zone on offense gave us time to make some adjustments on defense to slow them down in the second half. The bye week will give us an opportunity to get some of our guys healthy and prep for the Northwood game in a couple of weeks. We are excited about the chance to finish the season strong at Sherman Field."
Both offense's started strong and moved the ball early on although Northern Michigan (2-7, 0-6 GLIAC) would strike for the first two touchdowns of the afternoon. Michigan Tech (4-5, 2-5 GLIAC) got the ball first and moved into Wildcat territory at the 42-yard line. Unfortunately, the drive ended on an interception by Troy Mayon at the four. The Wildcats took over and were in the end zone five plays later on a 57-yard touchdown run from Jake Mayon with 10:52 left in the first quarter.
The Huskies were able to drive the ball again on their second series, but were halted once again, this time at the Wildcats' 40-yard line. Michael James punt landed in the end zone for a touchback and in eight plays Northern Michigan had covered the 80 yards for another score. Quarterback Kole Stealy took it across the goal line from 12-yards out and the extra point by Daniel Riser was good to make it a 14-0 score with four minutes to play in the first quarter.
The Huskies special teams provided a big spark on the ensuing kickoff when senior wide receiver Jacob Wenzlick returned the ball 45 yards to the 49-yardline. A 15-yard penalty advanced the ball to the Wildcat 36, giving Tech great field position to work with. Sophomore quarterback Will Ark then lateralled the ball back to junior wide receiver Ben Hartley, who fired the ball to Wenzlick for a 36-yard score. It was Hartley's second touchdown pass of the year and fourth TD reception for Wenzlick.
Tech's defense settled in on the next NMU possession and forced a punt to get the ball back into the hands of the offense. The Huskies then engineered an 11 play 76-yard drive to knot the score at 14-14 with 12:23 to play in the second quarter. Ark completed three passes on the drive and some key runs by freshman running back Jared Smith moved the ball down to the Wildcat three. On a first a goal play, Ark scrambled away from pressure and into the end zone for the touchdown, his fourth rushing score of 2018.
Northern Michigan answered back with a 29-yard touchdown scamper from Isiah Wright roughly three minutes later to put the Wildcats back on top 21-14. However, the Huskies would control the action for the remainder of the half. Michigan Tech put together another long drive of 75 yards that culminated on a four-yard touchdown run by Smith. Smith had a total of six carriers, including one for 21-yards out to setup his own score.
The Huskies' defense came up big again, forcing the Wildcat attack into a three and out on their next drive. Junior defensive lineman Nate LaJoie wrapped up Jake Mayon for a four-yard loss on third and one to deny the Wildcats a first down.
Following a Wenzlick punt return of 10-yards, the Huskies had solid field position to work from again at their own 41. Smith ripped off a run of 23 yards and later in the drive Hartley reeled in a 16 yard pass from Ark to bring the ball down to the six. Facing a third and one with 18 seconds left in the second quarter, freshman quarterback Kyle Wood came in for an injured Ark and lofted the ball into the end zone to sophomore wide receiver Jordan Janssen for the go ahead score. It was Wood's second touchdown pass of the year and Janssen's third touchdown catch.
The defenses took over for much of third quarter until the Huskies made it a two possession game with just over four minutes on the clock. Hartley, who had thrown a touchdown pass earlier in the game, caught one this time from Ark as he snuck past a defender just inside the pylon from 13-yards out. Freshman kicker Eric Zeboor's extra point was good to make it a 35-21 Tech advantage.
The Wildcats didn't go quietly and put themselves right back into contention just before the third quarter expired. Wright got away from the Huskies' pass rush and powered down the field for a 31-yard touchdown run. However, the hold on the extra point was botched, leaving an eight point edge intact for Michigan Tech with 18 seconds remaining in the third.
Three combined punts occurred between the two teams at the outset of the fourth quarter, but Northern Michigan would eventually put together one final drive in an attempt to tie the game. The Wildcats took possession with 4:15 to go in the game at their own 25-yard line after a punt by James. Northern Michigan methodically moved the chains and in the process ran the clock down under a minute. Wright then got loose again for his third rushing touchdown of the game, this one covering 22-yards.
Needing a two-point conversion to tie with just 49 seconds to play, the Wildcats lined up on the left hash mark and Wright called his own number to try and knot the score. The Huskies defense was there to cut him off with junior linebacker Marshael Ryan, senior defensive lineman Garrett Ross, and sophomore defensive back Brandon Oja there to keep him away from the goal line. The Huskies then faced an onside kick for the first time this season and came through in the clutch. Ross grabbed the ball off the turf and then Ark took a couple of knees to run out the clock and give the Huskies the 35-33 win.
The Huskies had three different players toss touchdown passes in Saturday's game with Hartley, Ark, and Wood all connecting with wide receivers for scores. Ark completed a total of 13 passes for 125 yards followed by Wood with three completions for 15 yards. Hartley caught a career high 12 passes for 114 yards, including his fourth touchdown of the 2018 season. Wenzlick followed with three receptions for 50 yards and a score while racking up 41 yards of real estate on returns.
Smith led the ground assault, carrying the ball 25 times for 175 yards while reaching the end zone for the third time in 2018. Sophomore Tyrik Wicks came on in relief of Smith and ran 11 times for 36 yards in Saturday's win. As a team, the Huskies churned out 226 rushing yards and 402 yards of total offense.
Senior Graham Hubbell paced the Huskies' defense with 10 tackles and one tackle for a loss followed by Ryan with eight tackles, a half sack, and half tackle for a loss. LaJoie had a big tackle for a loss and sophomore defensive lineman Max Maloney generated a sack.
Mayon and Wright both went over 100 yards rushing for the Wildcats in Saturday's game. Mayon had 195 yards on 20 carries while Wright collected 116 yards on 17 touches. Wright had three touchdowns, Mayon chipped in with one, and Stealy added a fifth. Wright completed 8 of 13 pass attempts for 105 yards without a touchdown or interception. Benjamin Loutsis was the leading receiver for the Wildcats, reeling in four passes for 53 yards. Northern Michigan had 510 yards of total offense with 390 of them coming on the ground.
Troy Mayon had 16 tackles, a sack, three tackles for a loss, and one interception for Wildcats on Saturday. Austin Potter recorded 11 tackles, one sack and one tackle for a loss followed by Trevor Roberts and Isaac Darkangelo with nine stops each.
The Huskies are heading into a bye week next weekend before facing Northwood in the season finale on November 10th at Sherman Field. The kickoff is slated for 12 p.m.