HOUGHTON, Mi. The Michigan Tech football team claimed the Miner's Cup for the 10th straight time on Saturday, defeating Northern Michigan University 24-20 in a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference battle at Sherman Field at Kearly Stadium. The Huskies pulled ahead for good with 7:24 to play in the fourth quarter on a game winning touchdown.
"It was a great game and awesome win for our program today," Michigan Tech Head Coach Steve Olson said. "Northern Michigan is a big rival and winning this game is a goal that our team sets every year and we feel really good about accomplishing that today. I thought our wide receivers did a really nice job and it was good to see us get the ball into their hands. I thought we had good balance to our offense overall and it was great to get the ball down the field for some big plays.
"On defense, our secondary made some outstanding plays on the boundary to help slow their passing game down and we had a big interception in the fourth quarter by Glacier Wallington. Overall, I'm very happy with how our defense played as a unit today. We'll celebrate this win tonight and then focus on having great practices this week as we prepare to go play a good Davenport team on the road next week."
Michigan Tech (3-2, 1-2 GLIAC) sent the defense onto the field first and the Huskies promptly stopped the Northern Michigan (1-5, 0-4 GLIAC) offense. Senior Marshael Ryan came up with a big sack of quarterback Ryan Johnson to put the Wildcats on their heels.
The Huskies took over on the Northern Michigan 43-yard line and four plays later they were in the end zone. On a second and seven play at the Wildcat 30-yard line, junior quarterback Will Ark fired a touchdown strike to senior wide receiver Jacob Wenzlick to give the Huskies a 7-0 lead with 9:56 to play in the first quarter.
The Huskies added three more points to their total early in the second quarter on a 29-yard field goal by senior Evan Gornick. Ark connected with Wenzlick for 24 yards through the air and found junior wide receiver Jordan Janssen on an 18-yard pass play to setup up the field goal.
Unfortunately, Northern Michigan was able to counter with the next 13 points to take the lead before the second quarter expired. Daniel Riser converted a 40-yard field goal with 10:33 to go in the half and then tacked on three more points with a 26-yard kick at the 6:25 mark of the second period. The Wildcats then found the end zone for the first time with 2:46 remaining until the break when Johnson dialed in a 27-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Ravon Johnson to make it 13-10.
The Huskies got the ball to start the third quarter and promptly drove 82-yards for touchdown number two of the afternoon. Ark delivered two 35-yard passes to Wenzlick with the second going for a touchdown with 12:47 on the clock. Sophomore running back Jared Smith also reeled in a key 12-yard pass from Ark that kept the drive alive on a third and 10 play.
The Huskies maintained a 17-13 advantage until late in the third quarter when Northern Michigan vaulted back on top. Johnson hit running back Tyshon King on a screen pass for a 75-yard score. The drive was three plays with King crossing the goal line with 2:13 to play in the third period, giving NMU the 20-17 edge.
Both defenses settled in from there until the Huskies would engineer what would be the game winning scoring drive. Tech's defense forced a Wildcat punt from deep in their own territory, granting the Huskies' offense good field position at the NMU 45-yard line. Ark immediately went to the air and found senior wide receiver Ben Hartley for 22 yards. Smith and junior fullback Jordan Ferguson combined for 13 yards on two carries followed by Ark's third touchdown pass of the day, a 10-yard connection with Hartley. Gornick's extra point gave the Huskies a 24-20 lead with 7:24 to go.
Tech's defense then shut down the Wildcat's the rest of the way. Senior Glacier Wallington recorded his first interception of the season with 5:55 to play on a ball batted up in the air by senior Travis Tidwell. In the final two minutes, Tidwell broke up a Johnson pass on fourth and 10 at the Wildcat 45-yard line, which put the ball back in the hands of the offense to run out the clock.
Ark powered the Huskies' offense by completing 21 passes for 347 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran the ball seven times for 24 yards and did not have an interception. Wenzlick caught nine passes for 213 yards and had a pair of touchdown catches to pace the receiving corp. Hartley followed with five receptions for 57 yards and one touchdown. Wenzlick and Hartley each have three touchdown catches to lead the Huskies in that category this season.
As a team, Tech piled up 467 yards of total offense with 347 yards coming through the air and 120 yards on the ground. Smith powered the ground assault with 76 yards on 22 carries Saturday afternoon.
Tidwell guided the Huskies' defense with 10 total tackles, including one for a loss to go along with two pass breakups. Senior defensive lineman Xavier Ciardo had nine tackles and two more tackles for a loss while sophomore's Tai Allen and John Paramski each had eight tackles. Junior Nate LaJoie and Ryan collected a sack apiece for Tech.
Johnson completed six passes for the Wildcats which covered 158 yards in the contest. Two of the completions were for touchdowns and one of his 17 total pass attempts was an interception. King had 114 yards on 25 carries and caught one pass for 75 yards and a score. The Wildcats had 276 yards of total offense with 158 through the air and 118 on the ground. Antonio Howard Jr. had 13 tackles, two fumble recoveries and three pass breakups followed by Brady Hanson with 10 tackles to lead the Northern Michigan defense.
The Huskies are back on the road next weekend when they head to Grand Rapids, Michigan to battle Davenport. The Panthers fell on the road at Ashland University 30-27 Saturday. Next weekend's kickoff is scheduled for 12 p.m. eastern time.