HOUGHTON, Mich. – The Michigan Tech football team jumped ahead early and then rallied with a late fourth scoring drive to force overtime on the way to a 31-30 non-conference win over Hillsdale College Saturday at Sherman Field. The Huskies scored a touchdown with just over two minutes to play in regulation, converted on a two-point play to tie it, and then recorded a touchdown in their only possession in the extra frame. The Huskies last played an overtime game on November 5th, 2016, which was a 51-45 victory at Northern Michigan.
"It's exciting to end up on the right side of the scoreboard and come away with a win," Michigan Tech Head Coach Steve Olson said. "It was a tough and hard fought game by both teams; we expected it to be close and it was. Both teams would probably say there were too many mistakes made, but I'm very happy with the way we fought through to come away with a good win.
"I've very proud off how the offense battled all day long and the game plan they had was excellent. On defense, we had some big stops and key plays as well. We talked to our team about being UP resilient and that there are going to be times when you face adversity. The key is how do you respond and react to it in order to overcome it. I thought our players did a great job of that today and found a way to win."
Michigan Tech (2-0) struck first on Saturday with a pair of points on Hillsdale's first drive of the contest. On fourth and nine at the Chargers 22-yard line, the snap sailed over the punters head and into the end zone for the safety to make it a 2-0 score with 10:23 on the first quarter clock.
After a short drive by the Huskies on offense, Hillsdale (1-1) got the ball back but was forced to punt after a six play drive. Senior defensive back Graham Hubbell brought down wide receiver Alex Foos short of the first down on a third and 14 play, setting up the punting situation for the Chargers.
The Huskies took over at their own 20-yard line after the punt by quarterback Chance Stewart. Tech's offense then found a rhythm and the result was an 11 play 80-yard drive that chewed up the last five minutes of the first quarter, culminating in a touchdown in the first minute of the second quarter. Sophomore quarterback Will Ark completed four passes on the drive to senior wide receiver Jacob Wenzlick with some solid runs by senior tailback James Henderson and sophomore fullback Jordan Ferguson mixed in. Ark eventually crossed the goal line himself on a quarterback sneak from the one-yard line to make it a 9-0 score.
The Chargers quickly countered on their next drive, finding the end zone for the first time with 12:38 remaining in the second quarter. Stewart dialed in to Martin Petersen for a 27-yard touchdown pass which was setup by a 34-yard completion to Drew Zwiers on the previous play. The extra point was good and suddenly the gap was closed back down to two-points at 9-7.
The Huskies offense bounced right back and were headed to pay dirt again in just three plays. Ark fired two strikes to junior wide receiver Ben Hartley which accounted for 53 yards. The first covered nine yards followed by a 44-yard connection to place the ball at the Hillsdale 12-yard line. Freshman tailback Jared Smith got the call on the next play, bursting through the middle of the Chargers defense for his first career touchdown run and a 16-7 lead for Tech with 11:41 to go in the first half.
Unfortunately, Hillsdale's offense was clicking as well and returned to the end zone on the very next possession. Foos completed a pass to Konnor Maloney for 43-yards which helped setup a Stewart touchdown pass of 12 yards to Maloney with 10:11 remaining on the second quarter clock. Both defenses shut down the offenses for the rest of the half as the Huskies carried a 16-14 lead into the locker room at the break.
The Huskies' defense came up with a big stop against Hillsdale on the first drive of the third quarter. They ended up blocking the punt when junior linebacker Marvin Wright got his hand on a quick kick by Stewart. However, the Chargers defense held strong as the Huskies were turned away on a fourth down play inside the 30-yard line.
With the ball back in their hands on offense, the Chargers moved 72 yards in 13 plays, generating their first lead of the day. Tailback David Graham capped it with a touchdown run from the one-yard line and with the successful extra point, the Chargers were in front 21-16. Joe Philipp then increased the divide by eight points at 24-16 on a 21-yard field goal with just under 11 minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
Still trailing by eight with 8:59 to go, the Huskies' offense took over again following a key stop on fourth and five by the defense. Wright batted down a Stewart pass to give the ball back to the Huskies at their own 30-yardline.
The Huskies found the spark again and engineered a 14 play 70-yard drive that took 6:33 off the clock. Ark completed four passes, including one to Wenzlick for 15-yards to get Tech into the red-zone. Wenzlick then took the ball from the 12 to the six yard-line on a run, setting the stage for Henderson who rumbled into the end zone on the next play for the touchdown. Needing a two-point conversion to tie the game, the Huskies called timeout to setup the play. Ark sprinted up the middle on a delayed draw to knot the score at 24 points apiece.
In overtime, the Huskies got the ball first and converted on a key fourth and four play to keep the drive alive. Wenzlick made a tough catch right at the marker and then a pass interference penalty on Hillsdale placed the ball at the two. Ark then pushed his way across the goal line from a yard out, granting the Huskies a 31-24 advantage.
In college football, both teams have a chance on offense in overtime so Hillsdale had an opportunity to tie or win the game. The Chargers were able to overcome some adversity of their own on the drive when Stewart found an open Austin Sandusky for a 13-yard touchdown pass. Hillsdale made the choice to try and tie the game on an extra point, which would have forced a second overtime. However, the PAT attempt hooked wide left and the Huskies claimed the 31-30 win.
Ark completed 20 of 31 passes for 214 yards and added a pair of touchdown runs on the stat sheet. Henderson eclipsed the century mark on the ground for the second week in a row, churning out 120 yards on 28 carries. He also logged his first touchdown of the season. Smith had his first TD on his lone carry in the contest. Wenzlick reeled in nine passes for 117 yards followed by Hartley with two catches for 53 yards.
As a team, the Huskies produced 360 yards of total offense, 22 first downs, and were 3 of 4 on fourth down conversions. They had 146 rushing yards and 214 yards came via the air attack.
Defensively, Wright had 13 total tackles, one sack, 2.5 tackles for a loss, a pass breakup, and a blocked punt. Hubbell followed with 12 tackles, including 1.5 for a loss, and defensive back Travis Tidwell had 11 stops with a pass breakup. In total, the Tech defense disrupted five passes and hurried the quarterback three times.
Stewart powered the Hillsdale offense, completing 18 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns. Graham carried the ball 26 times for 80 yards and had one touchdown. Maloney was the top receiver for the Chargers, reeling in nine passes for 151 yards and a score. The Chargers generated 381 yards of offense with 22 first downs. The majority of their production was through the air, with 304 yards going into the final totals.
On defense, Dan Shanley made nine tackles to pace the Chargers while Nate Canterbury had eight tackles and two quarterback hurries.
The Huskies are back at Sherman Field on Saturday when they entertain Davenport University in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference opener. The kickoff is slated for 1 p.m.