PREVIEW: Huskies Face Final Road Test at Wayne State

Ben Hartley running with the football

Michigan Tech Game Notes (PDF) .   Wayne State Game Notes (PDF)
Sat., Nov. 9, 2019 • 1:07 p.m. (ET) • Tom Adams Field (6,439)
Michigan Tech (4-4, 2-4 GLIAC) at Wayne State (6-3, 5-1 GLIAC)
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Radio Broadcast: WKMJ 93.5 FM (Josh Ylitalo, Kirk McDonnell)
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Michigan Tech fell to Ferris State University in a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference contest on a snowy Saturday afternoon at Sherman Field at Kearly Stadium 52-0. The Huskies were unable to get much going against the Bulldogs who entered the weekend ranked second in the latest AFCA Coaches' NCAA Division II Top 25 Poll.

Steele Fortress completed nine passes for 65 yards while sophomore running back Jared Smith had 37 yards on 13 carries for the Tech offense. Freshman running Emmett Boehler covered 22 yards on eight carries while senior wide receiver Ben Hartley ended the day with two catches for 41 yards. William Marano averaged 27.6 yards per kickoff return with a season long 40-yard return on the opening play of the game.

Sophomore defensive back Braxton Blackwell had a team high 14 tackles, including 1.5 tackles for a loss and one quarterback hurry. Junior linebacker Ben Rybicki also logged 14 tackles and a forced fumble followed by senior defensive back Glacier Wallington with seven tackles and a pass breakup. Sophomore Tai Allen made five stops, had a pass breakup, and recovered the fumble caused by Rybicki.

Freshman running back William Marano has found a niche in the kickoff return game as the 2019 season has progressed. Marano averaged 27.6 yards per kickoff return this past weekend against Ferris State and had a season long 40-yard return on the opening kickoff in the first quarter. Marano has now returned 11 kicks this season for a total of 256 yards, which equates to a 23.3 yards per return average. He currently ranks fifth in the GLIAC in yards per return average and ninth in total return yardage. Teammate Jacob Wenzlick is tied for sixth in the conference in total kickoff return yards at 275 yards on 13 attempts.

As the 2019 season has gone along, a number of young players have stepped up and been called upon to contribute in big situations. Freshman quarterback Steele Fortress entered the game in the second half at Ashland and got his first start this past weekend against the second ranked Bulldogs. Fortress had 156 yards passing and a rushing touchdown two weeks ago against the Eagles and made some nice plays against a very tough Ferris State defense that brought a lot of pressure. Fortress also punted the ball three times and averaged 40.7 yards per punt. One traveled 48 yards and two stopped inside the 20-yard line. On the defensive side, junior linebacker Ben Rybicki got his first start this past Saturday and made some big plays against the Ferris State offense. He finished the game tied for the team lead in tackles with 14, with five of those being of the solo variety. He also forced a fumble in the third quarter. Sophomore linebacker Clayton Lynn has also received a lot of reps the last couple of weeks, making his second career start against Ferris State. Lynn made four stops in Saturday's game with a half tackle for a loss and a pass breakup.

Wayne State enters Saturday's game with an overall record of 6-3 and 5-1 in the GLIAC. The Warriors are on a roll having won six of their last seven games. Wayne State lost the first two games of the season before notching three straight victories over Quincy, Saginaw Valley State, and Northern Michigan. The Warriors lost to Ferris State 59-13, but have since put together another three-game winning streak. Wayne State has topped Ashland and Northwood before shutting out Davenport 34-0 last week. The Warriors are averaging 28.1 points and 394.7 yards of total offense per game this season. The majority of those yards have come on the ground to the tune of 218.4 per contest. Wayne State ranks third in the GLIAC in total offense and second in rushing yards. The defense leads the league in defensive touchdowns (3) and is second in fumble recoveries (7).

Quarterback Dakota Kupp has taken the majority of snaps this season, completing 80 passes for 1,128 yards and eight touchdowns. He has also been intercepted five times in eight games and added 257 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Deiontae Nicholas is the Warriors leading rusher in terms of yards, racking up 593 on 98 carries. James Hill has 563 yards on the season and leads the GLIAC in rushing touchdowns with 11. Darece Roberson has 25 catches for 564 yards and six touchdowns from the wide receiver spot. The Huskies will have to be aware of linebacker Leon Eggleston Saturday. Eggleston is averaging 7.9 tackles per game, has 8.5 tackles for a loss, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, and four interceptions. Fellow linebacker Brandon Tuck-Hayden checks in with a 7.0 tackles per game average with 8.5 tackles for a loss and two fumble recoveries in 2019.

Michigan Tech and Wayne State will meet for the 30th time on Saturday at Tom Adams Field in Detroit. The Warriors hold an 18-11 lead in the all-time series, but the Huskies have won seven of the last nine showdowns. Wayne State won 10 games in a row at the beginning of the series, with the first game being played in 1967. Tech's first win came in 1995 in a 43-3 triumph in Houghton. The Warriors were the opponent for last year's Hall of Fame Weekend, and Tech prevailed 23-20 that day at Sherman Field. It was a complete performance for the Huskies with big plays made by the offense, defense, and special teams. The Huskies trailed 10-3 at halftime and began to turn things around in the third quarter when they outscored the Warriors 14-3. Wayne State tied the game 20-20 at the 7:27 mark of the fourth quarter before the Huskies got what would be the game winning field goal with 5:49 remaining in the contest. Running back Jared Smith had a season high 198 yards rushing on 26 carries. Will Ark had a rushing touchdown and the Huskies' special teams blocked a punt that was returned for a touchdown by Kevin Lee. Tai Allen and Braxton Blackwell each had nine tackles that day to pace the defense.

The Huskies' last four wins over Wayne State have been by seven points or less and the two teams haven't played in Detroit since the 2014 campaign. Tech ended up winning in what was the 2014 season opener on September 4th 18-17. The Huskies stormed back late in the fourth quarter with 11 unanswered points. Charlie Leffingwell reeled in a 16-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Scarlett and then Leffingwell capped the score by finding the end zone on a two-point conversion to make it 17-15 with 5:36 to play. Still facing a two-point deficit, the Huskies then engineered a 14 play 69 yard drive that setup a game winning 25-yard field goal by Garrett Mead as time expired. The Huskies finished the year 9-1 in the GLIAC and 9-2 overall on the way to making the playoffs for the second time in program history.

The Michigan Tech Student Athletic Advisory Committee (SAAC) is currently collecting new or gently used hats, mittens, and other winter apparel for donation to the Salvation Army in Hancock. The initiative started this past weekend at the football game and continues this weekend at volleyball's match against the Bulldogs Friday followed by both games of the Huskies' WCHA hockey series with Minnesota State Friday and Saturday. In addition to these collection events, donation bins are placed in the administration building by the elevators and at the SDC by the ticket office. These bins will be in these locations until November 11 to collect donations.

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 is 12th in NCAA Division II in sacks (27), fourth in passing yards per game (196.0), is second in time of possession (31:36), second in fumble recoveries (7), second in fourth down conversions (13-24), third in punting (40.6), and first in punt return average (9.7). The Huskies are first in the GLIAC (11th NCAA II) in fewest sacks allowed (6) and tackles for a loss allowed (28) (6th NCAA II). Nate LaJoie is tops in the conference (18th NCAA II) in total sacks with 7.5, LaJoie is first in tackles for a loss (11.5) (34th NCAA II), and Will Ark is second in the conference (16th NCAA II) in punting (41.7) and is fourth in the conference in passing yards per game (187.7).

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 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 will close out the 2019 season next Saturday at home against Northwood University at Sherman Field at Kearly Stadium. The Timberwolves have struggled record wise this season at 1-8, although they have been in some close games against some solid teams. The Timberwolves picked up their first win of the year 28-10 over Northern Michigan last weekend in their final home game of the 2019 campaign. Northwood travels to Davenport this weekend before heading north to battle the Huskies.