ASHLAND, Ohio – The Michigan Tech football team suffered a tough 21-12 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference loss at Ashland University Saturday afternoon. The Huskies fell behind 21-0 in the third quarter, but battled back with a couple of touchdowns in the second half to get within striking distance. Tech had 407 yards of total offense, generated two sacks, and blocked an Eagles field goal.
"I thought we moved the ball effectively in the first half, but we weren't able to finish drives like we needed to," Michigan Tech Head Coach Steve Olson said. "We got off schedule a couple of times and couldn't complete those good drives that we had. I thought we did a solid job of running the football effectively and had some good passes, so there were some positives to take away from the game in that respect. We were able to finish some drives off and battle back in the second half, but unfortunately, we didn't start quickly enough today.
"Defensively, we need to do a better job of tackling and we'll work on that this week. I feel like we did a nice job of bringing pressure and our defensive backfield played pretty well in coverage on deep throws down the field. We have to bounce back this week and get our guys ready to play another good football team in Ferris State next weekend."
Michigan Tech (4-3, 2-3 GLIAC) was able to move the ball effectively from the start and knocked on Ashland's (5-3, 4-2 GLIAC) door a couple of times in the first half. Unfortunately, the Huskies were unable to capitalize once they got the ball inside Ashland territory in the opening 30 minutes of the contest.
Meanwhile, the Huskies' defense kept the Eagles' offense in check until early in the second quarter. Ashland was eventually able to crack the scoreboard with 12:48 to play in the first half on a six-yard touchdown run by quarterback Austin Brenner. Satchel Denton converted the extra point to give the Eagles a 7-0 edge.
The Huskies worked the ball back into Ashland's end of the field on the ensuing drive but were forced to punt at the 47-yard line. Junior Will Ark pinned the Eagles deep at their 11-yard line with a 36-yard punt at the 8:39 mark of the second quarter. However, Ashland was able to put together a 10 play 89-yard touchdown drive to extend the lead to 14-0 with 4:38 remaining in the half. Brenner connected with wide receiver Logan Bolin for a 25-yard strike to put the ball into the end zone.
Tech threatened again late in the first half when the offense drove the ball down to the Ashland 27-yardline. Junior quarterback Will Ark dialed in a 22-yard pass to junior wide receiver Jordan Janssen, bringing the ball down to the 36-yard line with 53 seconds left in the second quarter. The Huskies were eventually stopped on a fourth down play at the 27 and the Eagles ran out the clock to take a 14-0 lead into the locker room at halftime.
The Huskies' defense got a big stop against the Eagles' offense on the opening drive of the third quarter to quickly get the ball back into the hands of the offense. Seniors Marshael Ryan and Glacier Wallington converged on running back Gei'vonni Washington to stop him for a one-yard gain on a third and three play to force a punt on fourth down. Tech got the ball back and put together a 13 play 41-yard drive to move the ball back inside the Ashland 30-yardline, but the Huskies were stopped on fourth down by the Ashland defense.
Ashland took advantage and returned to the end zone three plays later to make it a 21-0 score with 6:52 to go in the third quarter. Washington broke through the line of scrimmage for a 36-yard touchdown run, which was his ninth rushing touchdown of the season.
The Huskies kept battling through the wind and the rain to get themselves back into the game on the next drive. Sophomore running back Jared Smith anchored the drive with multiple carries of six yards or more to move the ball down the field. Freshman quarterback Steele Fortress completed a pass of 14 yards to senior wide receiver Ben Hartley and a 12-yard strike to junior fullback Jordan Ferguson to keep the offense firing on all cylinders. Smith eventually broke loose for a 16-yard touchdown run, his third of the season, to get the Huskies on the board with 2:22 to play in the third. The extra point failed to keep the score at 21-6.
The Tech special teams stepped in to make a big play on Ashland's next drive to keep the score right where it was. Sophomore defensive backs Tai Allen and Braxton Blackwell converged on Brenner for a sack that cost the Eagles eight yards on a third and two play at the Tech 10-yardline. Ashland was forced to settle for a 35-yard field goal attempt that was blocked by freshman Michael Munderloh, putting the ball back into the hands of the offense.
The Huskies were able to take advantage of the blocked field goal by turning it into points. Facing a fourth down and seven play at the Ashland 46-yard line, Fortress avoided pressure to find a wide-open William Marano in the flat. The freshman running back reeled in the pass and went 38-yards down the field for a first down at the Eagles' eight-yard line. On the next play, Fortress powered his way into the end zone for his first career rushing touchdown. The two-point conversion attempt failed and the Huskies faced a 21-12 deficit with 7:48 to play in the fourth quarter.
The Huskies ended up getting a couple of more chances on offense, but were unable to add any additional points. Although the Eagles didn't tack on any more points to their total, they were able to take some time off the clock in the closing minutes of the game to help seal the win.
Ark and Fortress combined to complete 22 passes for 251 yards in Saturday's game. Fortress played the second half and ended the day with 156 of those yards while adding a touchdown and 45 more yards on the ground. Smith was Tech's leading rusher, carrying the ball 12 times for 77 yards and one touchdown. Marano had a game high 59 yards on four receptions followed by Ferguson with 58 yards on four catches. Hartley had a team high five receptions for 56 yards. As a team, the Huskies had 407 total yards of offense, with 156 coming on the ground.
Ryan had a team high 10 tackles, including a tackle for a loss to pace the Huskies' defense. Wallington followed with nine stops and one tackle for a loss. Four players combined to produce two sacks for the defense in Saturday's contest. Allen, Blackwell, junior Nate LaJoie, and junior Taylor Pelton each had a half sack. As a team, the Huskies racked up six more tackles for a loss, giving them 52 for the season. Tech now has 27 sacks which is just three shy of the single season school record of 30 set in 2007.
Brenner completed 10 passes for 152 yards and one touchdown for the Eagles while adding 86 yards and another score with his feet. Washington carried the ball 29 times for a game high 174 yards and the additional Ashland touchdown. Jake McLoughlin was the leading receiver for the Eagles, reeling in three catches for 48 yards. Ashland ended the day with 411 yards of total offense. Clay Shreve and Cedric Frierson had 12 and 11 total tackles respectively to guide the Ashland defense. Neither team turned the ball over in Saturday's game.
The Huskies return home next weekend to face Ferris State at Sherman Field and Kearly Stadium. The Bulldogs defeated Saginaw Valley State 34-10 Saturday and remain unbeaten coming into next weekend's game. The kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. eastern time.