HOUGHTON, Mich.- The Michigan Tech football team scored 21 unanswered points, had three touchdown runs by senior running back John Williams, and blocked a punt for a touchdown to secure a 38-14 non-conference win at home over Truman State in the season opener Thursday night. It was the first blocked punt for a touchdown since November 14th, 2015 when Derek Ferris and Cayman Berg-Morales teamed up for six points against Lake Erie.
"I thought the kids came out there and they did what we wanted to do," Michigan Tech Head Coach Steve Olson said. "We handled some adversity and I thought we ran the football very well. Their offense made a couple of big plays on us early, but after that we settled down and played really well.
We felt like we had a really good fall camp and that we would have the ability to come out and run the football. We were able to do that and I thought our kids worked extremely hard and it showed up tonight."
After a slow start offensively for both teams in the first quarter, Truman State (0-1) took advantage of a short field to open the scoring Thursday night. The Bulldogs, who received votes in the Preseason AFCA Top 25 Coaches' Poll, went 33-yards in four plays to make it 7-0 contest on a three-yard touchdown throw from quarterback Jaden Barr to Jake Ellis with 5:27 on the clock.
Michigan Tech (1-0) bounced back on the ensuing possession with two straight pass completions by quarterback Jake Brown followed by three straight runs courtesy of Williams. Williams reeled off back to back carries of six yards before busting loose for a 45-yard touchdown run with 2:55 left in the quarter. Williams would go on to rack up a career high 176 yards and three touchdowns on the night.
The Huskies' special teams then made their presence felt when James Henderson knifed in to take the ball off the foot of punter Brock Rohler. Graham Hubbell picked up the loose ball at the two-yard line and dove across the goal line for the touchdown and 14-7 Tech lead.
Unfortunately, it didn't take Truman State long to deadlock the score once again. Barr eluded the Tech defense for a 75-yard touchdown run of his own on the first play from scrimmage following the Tech kickoff. The extra point by Danny Spencer tied the game at 14-14 with just 17 seconds left in the first quarter. However, it would be the final points of the night for Truman State.
The Huskies moved back in front for good with 6:36 remaining in the half on an Evan Gornick 25-yard field goal, which capped a nine play 48-yard drive. A pass completion from Brown to Henderson of 26-yards put the Huskies inside the Truman State 10-yard line to setup the triple.
Tech's defense limited the Bulldogs to just four plays on their next possession thanks in part to a 10-yard sack by linebacker Marvin Wright who flew through the middle of the line to get to Barr. It was one of a team high 13 tackles for Wright in the game.
Following the punt and a five-yard pass completion by Brown to wide receiver Jacob Wenzlick, Williams found green again in the Bulldogs defensive backfield. The Tech offensive line opened up a running lane that enabled Williams to charge 68-yards to the end zone for his second touchdown of the night. The extra point by Gornick made it a 24-14 score in favor of the Huskies with 3:34 to play until the break.
The Huskies didn't waste any time creating more separation early in the third quarter. Wenzlick nearly returned the opening kickoff of the second half to the end zone, but a touchdown saving tackle by the kicker Rohler at the 30-yard line of the Bulldogs prevented him from reaching pay dirt. A face mask penalty on the play set Tech up at the 15-yard line to start the drive which was capped by a two-yard plunge by Williams across the goal line to make it 31-14.
The Huskies added their fifth touchdown of the game in the fourth quarter when Brown found wide receiver Kevin Kirkland on a perfectly executed play action pass from 25-yards out for the score. Gornick's PAT resulted in the final tally of 38-14 in favor of Tech.
Williams powered the offense with 176 yards on 21 carries and three touchdowns. He averaged 8.4 yards per carry and had the longest run of the night which covered 68 yards. Henderson added 45 yards on 11 carries along with catching a pass out of the backfield for 26-yards.
Brown had a solid night in his first start at quarterback. The junior completed 12 of 17 attempts for 121 yards and one score. He found fullback Jordan Ferguson and Wenzlick three times in the contest. Wide receiver David Falish had two catches and paced the team in receiving yards with 28. Kirkland had two catches, including the 25-yard TD. As a team, Tech generated 357 yards of total offense with 236 coming on the ground.
On defense, Wright had a team best 13 tackles with a sack and 2.0 tackles for a loss. Linebacker Tyler Jacqmain had nine tackles and 2.5 of those were behind the line of scrimmage. Henderson had his second career blocked punt on special teams after getting one a year ago in the win at Northern Michigan.
Barr guided the Bulldogs in both rushing and passing Thursday night. He netted 116 yards on the ground with one score while completing 12 of 17 passes for 79-yards and an additional touchdown. Dante Ruffin caught two passes for a team best 31 yards. Truman State was held to just 209 yards of total offense by the Tech defense in the season opener.
Jordan Brown led the Bulldogs defense with nine tackles followed by Wyatt Fishel and Justin Mikeworth with seven stops apiece.
The Huskies are now 8-0 in season openers dating back to the 2010 campaign. Tech will go on the road for the first time in 2017 when the team heads to Hillsdale for a non-conference battle Saturday September 9th at 1 p.m.
"Hillsdale is a very good football team," Coach Olson said. "They have a very good quarterback and are a solid offensive football team. They will be a tremendous challenge especially going on the road so our kids will have to do a great job preparing all week to get ready for the Chargers."