HOUGHTON, Mich. – The Michigan Tech football team came up just short in the final game of the 2018 season Saturday, falling 26-23 in a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference matchup with Northwood on a snowy day at Sherman Field. The Huskies stormed back early in the fourth quarter from a 20-10 deficit to take a 23-20 lead, but a late scoring drive by the Timberwolves tipped the scales in their favor.
"It was a typical GLIAC football game with both teams battling and competing throughout the game," Michigan Tech Head Coach Steve Olson said. "It came down to the very end of the game which a lot of our games do, but we weren't able to get over the hump and make it happen to get a win today.
"We faced a lot of adversity this year and I thought our seniors did a tremendous job. The adversity we faced was a lot of injuries and I thought our seniors did an outstanding job of keeping our young players upbeat. They also led through the offseason with their work ethic in the weight room and in the overall effort that they gave to prepare for this year. This was a really good group of seniors and we will miss them as they move on to the next steps in life."
Michigan Tech (4-6, 2-6 GLIAC) won the toss and deferred to the second half and the defense stepped up immediately in the first quarter. The Huskies created two negative plays against the Northwood (3-7, 3-5 GLIAC) offense which led to an eventual punt. Linebacker Marshael Ryan along with defensive linemen Garrett Ross and Xavier Ciardo combined for two tackles for a loss.
The Huskies took over in good field position at their 45-yard line and were into the end zone in three plays. Running back Tyrik Wicks got his first career start and reeled off runs of two and 10 yards before breaking through the Northwood defense for a 42-yard touchdown run on his third carry of the afternoon. It was the first career touchdown for Wicks and with Eric Zeboor's extra point the Huskies led 7-0.
The Tech defense came up with a big goal line stand on Northwood's next offensive possession to keep the lead intact. The Timberwolves started the drive at their own nine-yard line and took the ball down to the Tech two, setting up a first and goal. Quarterback Joe Garbarino was stopped for a one-yard gain by defensive lineman Nate LaJoie on first down and then shut down for no gain on each of the next two carries.
LaJoie had a hand in both, including a forced fumble that Garbarino was able to recover. Ciardo also assisted on the second down run. The Timberwolves elected to go for it on fourth down and on a sweep play to the right, safety Drew Marion came up to stop Abdul Levy for a two-yard loss, thwarting the scoring opportunity for Northwood.
Neither offense could do much from there until the Timberwolves pulled even midway through the second quarter. It was a quick four play drive that covered 73 yards, culminating on a 16-yard touchdown run by Corey Burdick with 7:21 to play until the break. The Timberwolves had one more crack at points late in the second, but linebacker Mattias Hoehnen blocked a 23-yard field goal with 24 seconds on the clock to keep the score at 7-7.
The Timberwolves defense came up with a stop on Tech's first possession of the third quarter and the offense capitalized with a touchdown. Garbarino broke away for a 46-yard touchdown run, giving Northwood a 14-7 lead at the 10:18 mark of the third.
The Huskies were able to answer with a 29-yard Zeboor field goal on the ensuing possession to draw back to within four points at 14-10. Jacob Wenzlick set the Huskies up in good field position at the 43-yard line on a 32-yard kickoff return. Wicks converted for a first down with a four-yard run on fourth and two to keep the drive alive and give Zeboor a closer shot at the uprights.
Unfortunately, the Timberwolves would get a good kickoff return of 46-yards to lay the groundwork for another touchdown. Garbarino was able to find a running lane for 34-yard touchdown on the third play of the drive. The extra point failed though and the score at that juncture stood at 20-10.
The Huskies took over again at their 20-yard line late in the third and began a march down the field that eventually put them back in the end zone. Quarterback Kyle Wood scrambled for 29 yards and then fired a touchdown pass to Ozzy Corp from 24-yards out. Corp hauled the ball down in tight coverage to secure his second touchdown of the season. It was Wood's second touchdown pass in as many weeks and it drew Tech to within three at 20-17 with 14:53 to go in the fourth quarter.
The Huskies defense then came up big with a touchdown to vault Tech back on top. Defensive back Glacier Wallington picked up a fumbled pitch play and rambled 29-yards for the score. Unfortunately, the extra point was blocked by Josh Dabney and it kept the score at 23-20 with 14:09 to go in the contest.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Timberwolves were able to engineer an 85-yard drive to regain the lead and record what would be the game winning points. Garbarino scrambled away from pressure on a second and four play at the Tech 15-yard line, finding Gary Landless on a touchdown pass with 2:19 on the clock. Defensive lineman Nathan Beining blocked the extra point and kept the Huskies within a field goal of tying the game.
Tech had all three timeouts remaining and moved the ball down the field. Wood completed a clutch 13-yard pass to Wenzlick on a fourth and 10 to move the chains and keep the drive going forward. However, the drive eventually stalled out at the Northwood 24-yard line and forced a long field goal attempt with time winding down. Unfortunately, it went a little wide right and the Timberwolves were able to run out the clock.
Wicks led the Huskies offense with 122 yards on 20 carries, including the 42-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Wood completed 10 passes for 83 yards and one touchdown while adding 81 yards rushing Saturday afternoon. Wide Receiver Ben Hartley reeled in five receptions for 58 yards followed by Wenzlick with four catches for 48 yards. Corp has two receptions for 22 yards, including the touchdown. As a team, the Huskies generated 347 total yards with 214 coming on the ground.
Special teams blocked two more kicks giving them five on the season while adding 88 yards on returns. Punter Michael James averaged 38.0 yards per kick and had a 62-yard boot in Saturday's game. It was his second kick of 60 plus yards this season and he averaged 40.8 yards per punt, the highest single season average in school history. Following Saturday's game, his career average is a school best 39.1 yards per kick over 106 kicks. Ryan VanGoethem is next with a 38.2 yards per kick average on 123 total punts.
Defensively, linebacker Marvin Wright led the Huskies with 12 total tackles which included one tackle for a loss. Defensive back Brandon Oja and Ryan followed with nine stops each. Oja had 1.5 tackles for a loss and Ryan recorded 2.5 tackles for a loss which cost the Timberwolves 11 yards. Wallington had his first career touchdown on the fumble return in the fourth quarter.
Garbarino paced the Timberwolves offense, completing 13 passes for 177 yards and one touchdown. He tacked on two more scores and 121 yards on the ground followed by Corey Burdgick with 73 yards on 11 carries which included a touchdown. Landless caught six passes for 91 yards and one touchdown on the afternoon. Northwood recorded 424 yards of total offense with 247 of them coming on the ground.
C.J. Williams and Dimitri Abro paced the defense with 11 and 10 tackles respectively. Abro added two sacks and a quarterback hurry to the stat sheet. Jerry Parra made four tackles while breaking up two passes in the secondary.
The Huskies will now head into the offseason as they prepare for the 2019 season next fall.