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PREVIEW: Huskies Set to Battle Saginaw Valley State in GLIAC Opener

Travis Tidwell returning blocked field goal

Michigan Tech Game Notes (PDF) .   Saginaw Valley State Game Notes (PDF)
Sat., Sept. 21, 2019 • 1:30 p.m. (ET) • HRW Memorial Stadium (6,800)
Michigan Tech (2-0, 0-0 GLIAC) at Saginaw Valley St. (2-0, 0-0 GLIAC)
Radio Broadcast: WKMJ 93.5 FM (Josh Ylitalo, Kirk McDonnell)
Audio Webcast:
Live Stats:

The Huskies ran their 2019 record to 2-0 with a 24-19 non-conference win this past Saturday at McKendree University. It was the first ever meeting between the Huskies and the Bearcats. Tech took the early lead for the second consecutive week in a row with a first quarter touchdown and maintained a seven point edge at 14-7 at the break. The Huskies then held off McKendree in the fourth quarter to secure the victory. The Huskies used all three phases of the game to record their second consecutive road with to begin the year.

Michigan Tech's defense currently leads the GLIAC in total sacks with a combined eight through the first two weeks of the season. Grand Valley State is second with seven sacks in their first two games this year. Last week at McKendree, the Huskies got to the quarterback four times and in addition were credited with four quarterback hurries. Junior defensive lineman Nate LaJoie added another 1.5 sacks to his season total, giving him three on the year which leads the GLIAC and is fifth most in NCAA Division II. LaJoie nearly added two other sacks last week thanks to a pair quarterback hurries. Six different Tech players have at least a half sack heading into week three of the season at Saginaw Valley State.

The Huskies' defense has created six turnovers through the first two games of the year and it has led to a total of 19 points on the scoreboard. Last week at McKendree, the defense had two more interceptions which led to 10 points in Tech's favor. An interception late in the second quarter by senior Marshael Ryan set the table for a 16-yard touchdown run by Will Ark that gave the Huskies a 14-7 edge at the intermission. In the fourth quarter, Tai Allen grabbed an interception out of the air and returned it 31-yards deep into McKendree territory. That takeaway setup a key 26-yard insurance field goal by Evan Gornick, which made it a 24-13 score with 6:10 remaining in the game.

Junior quarterback Will Ark presents multiple dilemmas for opposing defenses with his ability to both throw and run with the football. Ark recorded his second rushing touchdown of the year at McKendree, finding the end zone on a 16-yard scramble to give the Huskies a 14-7 advantage late in the second quarter. Ark led the Huskies in rushing this past Saturday with 73 yards, equating to a 5.6 yards per carry average. He has 95 total yards on the ground so far and leads Tech in rushing scores, ranking fifth in the GLIAC in that statistical category. Through the air, Ark has completed 31 passes for 334 total yards and two touchdowns. He's averaging 167.0 yards passing per contest. 

Ark also serves as the punter for the Huskies and delivered some clutch kicks in Saturday's win at McKendree. Ark punted the ball five times and pinned the Bearcats inside their 20-yard line on three of those attempts. Ark averaged 39.2 yards per punt and had a long punt of 48 yards. Ark ranks third in the GLIAC with a 41.7 yards per punt average through two games this season.

Saginaw Valley State has had an excellent start to the 2019 campaign as well. The Cardinals are 2-0 going into Saturday's battle with the Huskies, posting a margin of victory of 15 points or more in each of their first two games. Saginaw Valley State defeated Texas A&M-Kingsville on the road in week one 35-14 and then pulled away from Tiffin 35-20 last week for a victory in their home opener. Saginaw Valley State's offense ranks second in the GLIAC in scoring at 35.0 points per game, first in passing touchdowns (5), and the defense is tied for first in interceptions (4) and fumble recoveries (2). The offense is averaging 374.0 yards per game through the first two weeks while the defense has surrendered only 17.0 points and 343.5 yards per game to opponents in two games.

Senior quarterback Ryan Conklin powers the Cardinals offense with a GLIAC leading five touchdown passes through two games. Conklin has 24 completions for 429 total yards and has been intercepted only twice. Conklin has also added two rushing touchdowns to lead the Cardinals in that category as well. Wide receivers Casey Williams and Chad Gailliard each have two touchdown receptions from Conklin this season. Williams leads the team with eight catches for 195 yards and a 97.5 yards per game average. Nate McCrary and Tommy Scott Jr. share the rushing load with each player averaging close to 50 yards per game. Linebacker David Still is a player the Huskies will need to key an eye on defensively Saturday. Still enters week three with 17 total tackles, a forced fumble, and an interception. Fellow linebacker Justin Whitted has accumulated 14 total tackles followed by defensive back Donnell Alexander with 12 tackles, a fumble recovery, and one interception. 

Saturday's game will be the 33rd overall meeting between the two programs. The Cardinals lead the all-time series with Tech 22-10, including a 10-0 win in Houghton last season. The Huskies have won each of the last two games though in University Center, a 28-24 victory in 2017 and a 35-21 triumph in 2015. In 2017, Michigan Tech rallied from a 10-point deficit to claim the win. The Huskies trailed 24-14 going into the fourth quarter, but 14 unanswered points on a pair of John Williams touchdown runs made up the difference. Williams ended the day with 116 yards and three touchdowns to power the Tech offense. Defensive lineman Mattias Hoehnen had five stops and a career best 2.5 sacks and three tackles for a loss in the contest.

The Huskies named their four captains for the 2019 season prior to the start of the regular season. This year's captains, selected by a team vote, are offensive lineman Jeremy Bell, defensive back Travis Tidwell, wide receiver Jacob Wenzlick, and linebacker Marshael Ryan. All four players are entering their senior year with the Huskies.

Michigan Tech leads the GLIAC in sacks (8), time of possession (38:35), interceptions (4), fumble recoveries (2), fourth down conversions (7-8), and passing first downs (19). The Huskies rank in the top five in other multiple categories going into week three of the season. Tech is second in rushing touchdowns (5), total rushing attempts (95), and red zone touchdowns (6). LaJoie is tops in the conference in total sacks with three, Ben Hartley is fifth in the league in 82.5 receiving yards per game, and Jared Smith is second in the GLIAC in rushing yards per game at 115.5. The Huskies also lead all of NCAA Division II in time of possession.

Michigan Tech Head Coach Steve Olson is getting set to embark on his third season at the reigns of the program when the Huskies kickoff their season Saturday at Hillsdale. The Huskies went 4-6 in 2018, but retained the Miner's Cup for the ninth straight year with a 35-33 win at Northern Michigan. This will be Olson's ninth overall season as a coach at Tech. He served as the defensive coordinator for three seasons prior to being selected as the head coach for the 2017 season.

The 2019 season will once again feature two alumni reunions. The 1969 NIC Conference Championship team will have their 50th reunion Homecoming Weekend September 27-28 which will be highlighted with multiple events and Tech's showdown with Grand Valley State University. The 1989 Alumni Reunion will be Oct. 11-12 when the Huskies take on Northern Michigan in the annual Miner's Cup Game. This reunion will feature a number of great events as well.

Football VIP packs are available in 2 packs or 4 packs which include tickets, parking, game program, four beverages, and a buffet. The VIP Pavilion opens 90 minutes before  gametime with the first home game scheduled for September 28th at 1pm against Grand Valley State. Season tickets and great seats are still available for football, volleyball, basketball and hockey. To purchase your tickets go online to or call 906-487-2073.

The Huskies welcomed Jace Daniels to the coaching staff as the new offensive line coach during the offseason. Daniels, a native of Escanaba, Michigan, brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Huskies staff. Over the past two seasons at Northern Michigan, Daniels led an offensive line that created running lanes for Jake Mayon who earned Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Offensive Back of the Year honors in back-to-back seasons. Three of his offensive linemen garnered All-Conference accolades during his two seasons. Daniels helped coach a Northern Michigan offense that ranked second in the GLIAC during the 2018 campaign in rushing yards per game (241.8), yards per carry (5.0), rushing touchdowns (29), and first downs gained on the ground (146). The total offensive yardage for the Wildcats this past season was the third most in the GLIAC at 381.1 yards per game.

Michigan Tech is in Houghton for the first time in 2019 to face Grand Valley State University at Sherman Field. The Lakers are 2-0 to begin the season, boasting a 35-10 win over Edinboro (Pa.) in week one followed by a 28-24 triumph over Delta State University last week. The Lakers will be on the road for the first time this year when they travel to Northwood University this week for their GLIAC opener. For the Huskies, week four of the season is Homecoming and the dedication of Kearly Stadium in honor of former Michigan Tech head coaches Ted and Tom Kearly.