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PREVIEW: Huskies Collide with Rival Northern Michigan Saturday

Attempting to block kick

Michigan Tech Game Notes (PDF) .   Northern Michigan Game Notes
Sat., Oct. 12, 2019 • 1:05 p.m. (ET) • Sherman Field at Kearly Stadium (3,200)
Michigan Tech (2-2, 0-2 GLIAC) vs Northern Michigan (1-4, 0-3 GLIAC)
TV: TV6/NCAA Game of the Week (Chuckie Kempf, Richard Baldinger, Dave Ellis)
Online Video:
Radio Broadcast: WKMJ 93.5 FM (Josh Ylitalo)
Audio Webcast:
Live Stats:

Michigan Tech gave the then 9th ranked Grand Valley State Lakers all they could handle a couple of weeks ago on September 28th at Kearly Stadium, but came up just a bit short 21-16 on Homecoming. The lead changed hands four times throughout the game and the Huskies defense and special teams along with timely drives and plays by the Tech offense nearly produced an upset. The Huskies trailed 14-10 before regaining the lead 16-14 with just under six minutes to play in the fourth quarter, but Grand Valley State found the end zone one more time in the final minute to get the win. Tech's defense combined for six more sacks and eight tackles for a loss and currently rank first in the GLIAC with 20 total sacks. Freshman Emmett Boehler had 40 yards rushing and his first career touchdown. Freshman William Marano had 47 yards on 10 carries and recovered a botched punt attempt by the Lakers in the end zone for Tech's other touchdown of the game.

Michigan Tech punter/quarterback Will Ark was named the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Special Teams Player of the Week following the Grand Valley State game. Ark's ability to pin the Grand Valley State offense deep in their own end of the field helped keep their offense off balance for a good portion of the game.

Ark, a junior from Green Bay, Wisconsin, had an outstanding game punting the football against Grand Valley State. Ark punted the ball eight times for 385 total yards, which was only six yards shy of Tech's single game school record of 391 yards set by Ryan Ostach against Hillsdale on September 9, 1998. Ark averaged 48.1 yards per punt, including a season long kick of 63 yards. Five of his eight punts landed inside the 20-yard line and one kick was a fair catch. In addition to punting, Ark completed 15 passes for 111 yards and added 16 yards on four carries from the quarterback position. Freshman running back William Marano was an Honorable Mention for Offensive Player of the Week while senior defensive lineman Xavier Ciardo was Honorable Mention for Defensive Player of the Week honors.

The Michigan Tech defense has enjoyed great success in terms of putting pressure on the quarterback through the first four games of the 2019 season. The Huskies have racked up 20 total sacks which leads the nation and the GLIAC going into Saturday's battle with Northern Michigan. Eight different players have at least one sack for the Huskies with junior Nate LaJoie and senior Xavier Ciardo leading the way with 5.5 and 4.5 respectively. LaJoie is first in the GLIAC in sacks and currently is fourth in all of NCAA Division II in that category. Meanwhile, Ciardo is third in the GLIAC in total sacks while ranking 11th in NCAA Division II. The Huskies all-time season high for team sacks currently stands at 30 which was set in 2007. The increased pressure on the quarterback has helped lead to five interceptions and four fumble recoveries for Tech, resulting in 26 points off of those changes of possession.

The Huskies' offense has done an excellent job of possessing the ball for extended periods of time. Tech enters week five ranked second in the GLIAC in time of possession with an average of 32:26 per game. One of the reasons for that is Tech's effectiveness and aggressiveness in fourth down situations. The Huskies are 8 of 11 on fourth down tries this year, equating to a 73 percent conversion percentage. Tech is second in both of those categories in the GLIAC as well going into Saturday's showdown with Northern Michigan. The Huskies also find themselves in very manageable down and distance scenarios due in large part to giving up the fewest sacks (2) in the GLIAC (7th NCAA Division II). They have also permitted the fewest amount of tackles for a loss (12) in the conference while ranking third in NCAA Division II in that category.

Northern Michigan is 1-4 overall and still searching for win number one in the GLIAC coming into Saturday's game with the Huskies. The Wildcats lone win of the season came in week one in a 30-9 victory over McKendree University in the Superior Dome. Northern Michigan suffered a 27-14 loss at the hands of Wayne State last weekend. The Wildcats had a 14-7 lead through one quarter before the Warriors recorded 20 unanswered points in the final three frames to win the game.

Northern Michigan is averaging 267.2 yards and 17 points per game through five contests in 2019. The Wildcats defense is allowing opposing offenses to generate 394.6 yards and 27.0 points per game. However, the Wildcats have forced 10 turnovers, including a GLIAC best six fumble recoveries. Quarterback Ryan Johnson is averaging 165.0 yards passing per game with five touchdowns (T2nd GLIAC) compared to two interceptions. His favorite target is Ravon Johnson who has reeled in 22 receptions for an average of 65.2 yards per game and one touchdown. Running back Tyshon King is posting 65.8 yards per game on the ground and is tied for fourth in the conference with five rushing touchdowns. Linebacker Isaac Darkangelo is averaging 11.4 tackles per game on defense which includes a sack, 4.5 tackles for a loss and one fumble recovery. Safety Brady Hanson produces 7.2 tackles per game and leads the Wildcats with two interceptions.

Saturday's showdown marks the 18th anniversary of the Miner's Cup which was created in 2002 through the efforts of the Michigan Tech Athletics Department and its Army ROTC. The Miner's Cup Trophy is made from an authentic miner's helmet which is mounted on a wooden base. The helmet was found in a Houghton area antique shop. The Trophy has been in Houghton since the 2010 season as the Huskies enter the weekend with nine straight wins in the series.

Michigan Tech leads the all-time series with Northern Michigan 46-41-5 which began with a 20-13 Huskies victory in Marquette on October 16th, 1920. Tech is 15-4 against the Wildcats since 2000 and is 14-3 in Miner's Cup games going into the weekend. The Huskies edged Northern Michigan last season 35-33 in Marquette at the Superior Dome to keep the Miner's Cup in Houghton for the 9th straight season. 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. Tech ended the game with 226 total rushing yards with 175 coming from Jared Smith.

The last time the game was at Kearly Stadium in 2017, the Huskies overcame a 14-0 first quarter deficit to win 28-21. Tech recorded the game winning score on a six-yard touchdown pass from Jake Brown to Ben Hartley with 8:27 to play in the game. Hartley also reeled in the two-point conversion to secure the eight points. The Huskies had 363 yards of total offense with 231 coming through the air and 132 via the ground attack. Jacob Wenzlick caught a 75-yard pass from Brown in the final minute of the first half to close the gap to one point and give the Huskies much needed momentum going into halftime.

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 and NCAA Division II in sacks (20), is second in time of possession (32:26), second in fumble recoveries (4), first in fourth down conversions (8-11), first in punting (45.5), and second in punt return average (10.3). The Huskies are first in the GLIAC (7th NCAA II) in fewest sacks allowed (2) and tackles for a loss allowed (12) (3rd NCAA II). Nate LaJoie is tops in the conference (4th NCAA II) in total sacks with 5.5, LaJoie is first in tackles for a loss (9th NCAA II), Xavier Ciardo is third in sacks (4.5) and Ben Hartley is fifth in the league in receiving yards per game with 64.3. Will Ark leads the conference (4th NCAA II) in punting (45.5).

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 once again features two alumni reunions. The 1969 NIC Conference Championship team had their 50th reunion on September 28th which was highlighted with multiple events and Tech's showdown with Grand Valley State University. The 1989 Alumni Reunion is this Friday and Saturday 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 still 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 game time and there are three more home games remaining on the schedule including Saturday's Miner's Cup battle with Northern Michigan. 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.

The Huskies are back on the road next weekend for a GLIAC game at Davenport University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It will be the first time Tech has traveled to play the Panthers since they joined the GLIAC a couple of seasons ago. The first two games in the all-time series were played in Houghton with each team winning one of those contests. Davenport is 3-1 overall and 1-1 in the GLIAC going into a matchup at Ashland University this weekend. The Panthers lost for the first time this season last week 35-7 at home against Ferris State.