HOUGHTON — Michigan Tech began the season with a momentum-building win, and looks to add to it this weekend.
The Huskies (1-0) host Division I Football Championship Subdivision opponent St. Thomas in a first-ever matchup at 1 p.m. Saturday.
St. Thomas jumped to D-I after 115 years in Division III, earning 20 MIAC titles. The Tommies canceled last week’s game against St. Francis because of COVID-19 protocols.
Tech is coming off a 14-10 win against Hillsdale last week. The Huskies’ offense compiled 310 yards on 69 plays (4.49 yards per play). The defense limited Hillsdale to 168 yards on 55 plays (3.05 yards per play).
Huskies quarterback Will Ark completed 16 of 32 passes for 238 yards and threw for two TDs.
“Well obviously we’re very happy with the win,” Huskies head coach Steve Olson said. “There’s always things you got tow ork on and clean up and try to get better at, but for coming out not having played as long as we have, we’re very happy to get a win. I thought there was a couple of great balls that were thrown and a couple of great catches that were made that really made the difference in the game for us.
“I thought our defense played outstanding. There’s still other things that we got to continue to work on and get better at. I think our team right now is in a good place. They have been working hard, so we’re getting ready to go.”
Saturday will also be 2020 Senior Day for Tech, the first chance the university has to honor last year’s football seniors since the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out last season.
Defense: The Huskies defense was uncaged last week, putting constant pressure on Hillsdale’s offensive line and quarterback Luke Keller.
Keller had difficulty all day getting enough time to reach the top of his drop and working through progressions as the Huskies defensive line collapsed the pocket. As a result, Tech racked up seven sacks for a total loss of 33 yards. The sacks came from defensive back Braxton Blackwell, linebackers Fred Kemp, Marvin Wright, John Paramski and defensive linemen Josh Cribben and Nate LaJoie.
Paramski’s sack came late in the third quarter on a third-and-goal from Tech’s 2-yard line that prevented a touchdown and forced HIllsdale to settle for a 20-yard field goal.
The Huskies also caused two fumbles that Hillsdale recovered, and two interceptions by Michael Bates and Sam Ahern.
Quarterback: Ark’s performance spearheaded Tech’s offensive performance, and win. His 238 passing yards alone outpaced Hillsdale’s total offensive output.
“Will’s a guy that has a lot of game experience. He’s been through a lot, coming off a full year where we haven’t really done much,” Olson said. “But overall, I was happy with the fact that he made good decisions. We didn’t have any turnovers. He didn’t make bad judgment throws. He gave our receivers chances. Were there some things that maybe he missed? Yeah, probably, but at the same time, we’re just happy with his progression and looking forward to the type of game that he’s going to have on Saturday.”
What didn’t work
Third-down conversions: The Huskies were 4 of 13 on third-down conversions last week. Their inability to continue drives nearly cost them the win as Hilsdale took a 10-7 lead with less than five minutes remaining. Tech punted six times for just an average of 24 yards per punt.
Red zone: Tech was 0 for 1 on red zone chances, though Ark’s second TD pass to Hunter Richards was from just outside the red zone, a 23-yard completion, the Huskies never got a snap inside Hillsdale’s 20.
Olson said shoring up weaknesses is just part of weekly preparation. He didn’t specify what aspects of the game the Huskies focused on this week, but that it’s a weekly process throughout the season.
“You have to look at each week as its own individual week,” he said. “You have to come out and you have to go back to work on the first day that you have practice, which for us is Monday. Then you’re just trying to string together good practices and get your team ready to go for situations and things like that.”
Football back, fans back
An official tally of 1,767 fans were on hand for last week’s Huskies game. Not only was it Tech’s first time on the football field, it was also the largest attendance at a Tech game of any sport since before the pandemic. Olson said the energy at the stadium was a welcome sight.
“It’s awesome to get back in front of our hometown fans,” Olson said. “We’re here for the whole month, so we get a chance to sleep in our own beds. But more importantly, when you come up the hill, you get a chance to be in front of the VIP (area) and all of our fans this Saturday.”
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