HILLSDALE, Mich.- The Michigan Tech football team fell short 31-27 at Hillsdale College in a non-conference contest Saturday afternoon. The Huskies carried a 27-10 lead into the fourth quarter, but the Chargers rallied with 21 unanswered points in the final 15 minutes to pull out the win on their home field.
"Give credit to Hillsdale for continuing to battle today, but we needed to do a better job of finishing the game," Head Coach Steve Olson said. "We had chances to do that in all three phases of the game with offense, defense and special teams. Unfortunately, we weren't able to close it out and we still have some work to do.
Up until the fourth quarter, I thought we were playing really well on special teams, moving the ball on offense, and getting ourselves off the field on defense. I felt like we were controlling the game through the first three quarters. We have to regroup this week, get healthy, and be ready to go at home next week against Grand Valley State."
It was a textbook start to the game for Michigan Tech (1-1) with the defense forcing the Hillsdale offense into a three and out followed by a long time consuming drive by the offense. After the Charger punt, the Huskies setup shop on their own 36-yard line and marched 64 yards to the end zone.
A 13-yard run by senior tailback John Williams along with two pass completions by junior quarterback Jake Brown to sophomore Jacob Wenzlick and senior James Henderson setup the touchdown play. On a second and goal from the one-yard line, Williams dove into the end zone for a 7-0 Tech lead, capping a drive that lasted for 6:39.
Hillsdale (2-0) came right back offensively to tie the contest just over five minutes later. Running back David Graham scampered 30 yards to get the Chargers inside Tech territory for the first time. Graham then finished the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run, tying the game at 7-7 with 1:45 left in the first quarter.
With the score still tied 7-7 with 10:48 remaining in the half, the Huskies engineered a 10 play 85-yard drive to regain the advantage. The Huskies took over on their own 15-yard line following a Charger punt and faced nearly the length of the field. Brown found junior wide receiver Kevin Kirkland for a 44-yard play action pass and catch to get the Huskies out of the shadow off their own end zone. Henderson then had an 18-yard catch, an eight-yard run, and a two-yard touchdown run to put Tech ahead again 14-7 with 4:39 to go in the half.
A botched snap on a fourth down punt attempt by Hillsdale on the ensuing possession gave Tech the ball at the Charger 10-yard line. Unfortunately, a fumble by the Huskies prevented the lead from being extended. Hillsdale then drew three points closer right before the break on a 38-yard field goal by Joe Phillip, making it a 14-10 Tech edge with 30 minutes in the books.
The Huskies got their hands on the ball to start the third quarter and proceeded to march down the field into the end zone. Williams ripped off 25 yards on the ground and then Brown connected with sophomore fullback Jordan Ferguson on a 26-yard pass. Williams took off 7-yards to the end zone on the next play for his second touchdown of the game and a 21-10 Tech lead.
The Huskies then notched three points on each of their next two possessions. With 8:31 remaining in the third quarter, Evan Gornick connected on a 34-yard field goal to make it 24-10 and then with 4:52 on the clock he was on target once again from 27-yards away. The two successful attempts on Saturday make him three for three on the season.
The Huskies held their 27-10 advantage up until the 9:46 mark of the fourth quarter when the Chargers scored the first of three touchdowns in the final period. Quarterback Chance Stewart snuck across the goal line on a one-yard run and repeated the feat again with just 3:12 to go in the game. The second touchdown trimmed the Tech lead to 27-24 at that point.
However, prior to the second touchdown, the Huskies had appeared to return a fumble for a potential touchdown of their own on a ball jarred loose from receiver Trey Brock by sophomore defensive back Travis Tidwell. The pass was eventually ruled incomplete and the drive continued for Hillsdale.
With momentum now on their side, the Chargers defense forced a three and out by the Tech offense to get the ball back. Hillsdale took over at the MTU 36-yard line and a Graham five-yard run across the goal line proved to be the game winner. The Huskies were unable to counter on their final possession and the score held in Hillsdale's favor.
Brown completed 16 of 24 passes leading to 204 yards through the air Saturday afternoon for the Huskies. His favorite target was Kirkland who reeled in a career high four receptions for 102 yards. Henderson tacked on four receptions for 33 yards and overall, Brown completed passes to seven different receivers. Williams accumulated 89 more yards on 19 carries (4.7 ypg) in addition to two more touchdowns giving him five on the season. Henderson added 32-yards rushing and scored his first touchdown of the season.
As a team, the Huskies had 330 yards of total offense with 204 through the air and 126 via the ground.
Defensively, sophomore linebacker Marvin Wright led the team this week with nine tackles, one sack, and two tackles for a loss. Tidwell and sophomore linebacker Tyler Jacqmain had eight stops each with senior defensive lineman Cody Goldsworth and junior defensive lineman Garrett Ross each registering a sack. Junior defensive back Graham Hubbell had five solo tackles and three pass breakups on Saturday.
Stewart guided the Chargers offense, completing 21 of 37 passes for 215 yards while using his feet to score two touchdowns. Graham had 98 yards and two scores rushing the football while Brock hauled in eight receptions for 83 yards. Hillsdale's offense had 320 total yards and were 4 of 6 on fourth down conversions.
On the defensive side of the ball, Spencer Nehls picked up 10 tackles followed by Merrick Canada, Nate Jones, and Alex Anschutz with seven stops each.
The Huskies will look to rebound on Saturday when they return to the friendly confines of Sherman Field to battle Grand Valley State in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference opener. The game will be streamed live on ESPN3 and will also be available on the ESPN app. One lucky fan in attendance will also have the chance to win a $25,000 vehicle courtesy of Keweenaw Chevrolet at halftime of Saturday's contest.
The kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.