LEBANON, Ill. – The Michigan Tech football team held back McKendree University for a 24-19 non-conference win Saturday afternoon on the road. The Huskies used all three phases of the game to secure their second consecutive road with to start the year. The defense had two more interceptions which led to 10 points on the scoreboard.
"It wasn't a pretty game, but to go on the road for the second week in a row and get a win was huge for our team," Michigan Tech Head Coach Steve Olson said. "I'm extremely happy to be 2-0 and proud of our players for overcoming some adversity. We had a number of players step up and make some outstanding plays against a good McKendree team to close out the game and get the win.
"On the offensive side of the ball I thought we ran the ball effectively at times and put together some solid drives, especially the one to start the second half. Turnovers are always a big key in any football game in terms of taking care of the football on offense while creating takeaways on the defensive side of the ball. When you are able to do that it gives you the best shot to win and that was the case today. We also had a solid effort on special teams as well, with Evan Gornick connecting on a key field goal in the second half. Overall, there were a lot of positives to take away from this game going into next week's contest at Saginaw Valley State."
Michigan Tech (2-0) cracked the scoreboard first for the second time in as many weeks. Will Ark pinned McKendree back against the goal line with a 39-yard punt that included a Bearcat fumble that they were able to fall on and retain possession. The Huskies defense forced a three and out and the Bearcats were forced to punt from their own five-yard line. A 12-yard punt return courtesy of Jacob Wenzlick gave the Huskies great field position at the McKendree 38-yard line.
Tech kept the ball on the ground for the majority of the drive and eventually faced a second down and goal to go. Fullback Jordan Ferguson got the call and powered his way across the goal line for his first career touchdown. Evan Gornick's extra point was good and Michigan Tech took a 7-0 lead with two minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Unfortunately, the Bearcats were able to strike back on their ensuing possession to deadlock the game at 7-7. McKendree constructed an eight play 75-yard drive that consumed 2:45 off the clock. Running back Jace Franklin carried the ball for a 12-yard touchdown with 14:22 to play in the half to cap the scoring drive.
Neither side would post points until the Huskies returned to the end zone with just under four minutes to play in the second period. Linebacker Marshael Ryan picked off his first pass of the season at the Bearcat 16-yard line. Defensive back Travis Tidwell deflected the ball up into the air and Ryan was there to grab it. Ark scampered to the end zone on the very next play to give the Huskies a 14-7 lead.
The Huskies opened the third quarter with the ball and engineered a textbook 13 play 68-yard drive to make it 21-7. Running back Jared Smith had a key run of 22 yards and on a second and goal play from the three-yard line, wide receiver Jacob Wenzlick took an end around play to the right and into the end zone for the score. The drive consumed 7:55 off the third quarter clock.
The Bearcats were able to draw back to within one possession when Turner Pullen connected with Kyle Harris for a 17-yard touchdown pass with 4:50 left in the third period. The extra point attempt went wide of the uprights and the score stood at 21-13.
Tech's second interception of the day helped pushed the lead back out to two possessions late in the fourth quarter. Pullen's pass over the middle was intercepted by safety Tai Allen and returned 31-yards to the McKendree 23-yard line. Evan Gornick eventually blasted his second field goal of the season through the goal post with 6:10 to go in the contest, making it 24-13.
The Bearcats didn't go quietly and kept themselves within striking distance thanks to a nine play 70-yard drive. Pullen tossed his second touchdown pass of the day, finding Tyler Siever in the end zone from 12 yards away. The two-point conversion failed, keeping the Huskies on top by five points at 24-19.
The Huskies defense was able to buckle down and halt McKendree's final drive late in the fourth quarter. Tech put pressure on Pullen to force some errant throws and make him uncomfortable in the pocket. Defensive lineman Brendan Thompson recorded his first career sack to slow down the McKendree drive, which eventually came to a close on downs. The Huskies were then able to take a knee and run out the clock to lock down the 24-19 win.
Ark completed 10 passes for 137 yards while rushing the ball 13 times for 73 yards and one touchdown. Smith added 59 yards on 14 carries while Emmett Boehler logged 37 yards on 12 carries Saturday afternoon. Wide receiver Ben Hartley paced the Huskies in receptions for the second straight week, reeling in five catches for 84 yards.
As a team, Michigan Tech generated 325 yards of total offense with 188 yards coming on the ground. The Huskies were 4 for 4 in the red zone and 3 for 3 on fourth down conversions to keep drives alive.
Tidwell guided the defense with eight tackles, including six solo stops and two pass breakups. Braxton Blackwell and Nate LaJoie followed with six tackles apiece while three additional players notched four tackles each. LaJoie had 1.5 more sacks giving him three in the first two games this season. The Huskies produced four total sacks as a team on the afternoon, boosting the season total to eight. Ryan and Allen reeled in the interceptions for the Huskies Saturday afternoon.
Pullen powered the McKendree offense, completing 18 of 38 passes for 176 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. Siever had eight catches for 56 yards and one touchdown while Pullen ended the day as the leading rusher for the Bearcats. He kept the ball on the ground for 40 yards on 10 carries. As a team, the Bearcats produced 286 yards with 180 yards picked up in the passing game.
Devon Myles and Ricco Gipson led the McKendree defense with nine tackles each on Saturday. Jason Bennett had eight tackles and one interception on the day.
The Huskies will be back on the field next week when they travel to Saginaw Valley State for their Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference opener. The Cardinals are also 2-0 to start the year after defeating Tiffin Saturday at home 35-20.
Next week's kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. eastern time.