PREVIEW: Stage set for Saturday St. Thomas Showdown – michigantechhuskies.com

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PREVIEW: Stage set for Saturday St. Thomas Showdown

OPENING DRIVE: Following a scoreless stalemate in the first half against Hillsdale College, Michigan Tech junior quarterback Will Ark connected with both Jordan Janssen and Hunter Richards in the end zone late in the fourth quarter, catapulting the Huskies to a 14-10 victory in the 2021 football season opener Saturday afternoon at Kearly Stadium in front of 1,767 fans. It was the first counting game for the team in 647 days following the cancellation of the 2020 regular season.

Ark completed 16 of 32 pass attempts for two touchdowns and zero interceptions in his first outing of 2021. The Green Bay, Wisconsin native was named All-GLIAC second team and Tech’s most outstanding offensive player in 2019 after he finished second in the GLIAC for passing yards per game (203.9) and tied for fourth in the conference with 10 touchdown passes. Ark was also the starting quarterback 10 times in 2018 and completed 132 passes for 10 touchdowns.

THIS WEEK’S MATCHUP: The Huskies will be tested again Saturday when they host the University of St. Thomas Tommies, who just made the jump from NCAA Division III directly to NCAA Division I beginning this fall. Before the Tommies compete in the Pioneer Football League, they must first survive a trip to the Copper Country. It is the first game of the season for St. Thomas after a cancelation in week one. 

THIS WEEK’S NUMBERS:

43 – Ark completed the Huskies first touchdown pass to Jordan Janssen for 43 yards and Drew Wyble kicked the point after for a 7-3 lead over Hillsdale at 10:36 of the fourth quarter. Janssen led all receivers with seven catches and 115 total yards.

18 – Running back Jared Smith made 18 run attempts for 63 yards for the Huskies Saturday. Smith averaged 2.5 yards per carry with a 13 yard long and helped open up passing lanes in the second half with his penetration at the line of scrimmage.

20 – Field position proved critical in a low scoring affair at Kearly Stadium. Punters Will Ark and Drew Wyble pinned the Chargers inside their own 20 yard line on three occasions, helping to turn the tide.

HOME SWEET HOME:

The Huskies are in the midst of a four-game homestand to start the year. Tech went 2-2 at home in 2019-20. After St. Thomas Saturday, the team hosts No. 16 ranked Grand Valley State (September 25) and Davenport (October 2). 

DEFENSE DOMINATES: 

Michigan Tech held Hillsdale quarterback Luke Keller to just 98 yards passing Saturday. Freshman Sam Ahern picked off his first career interception on the final drive in the fourth quarter. Tech also stopped the run and Jack Robinson was the HC’s leading rusher with 21 yards.

TACKLE LEADERS: 

Junior defensive back Braxton Blackwell led the team with 10 tackles (four solo), one a half-sack, and one pass broken up. Senior linebacker Marvin Wright assisted on nine total tackles with one solo while junior Kevin Lee patrolled the outside with four solo tackles and two assists. Fred Kemp (eight tackles) and Josh Cribben (eight tackles) also created pressure on the quarterback on the defensive line.

SCOUTING THE TOMMIES

– St. Thomas starts its run as an NCAA Division I institution in fall of 2021, joining the FCS-level Pioneer Football League. At NCAA Division III, the Tommies made eight NCAA playoff appearances in the last 11 seasons, including NCAA runner-up finishes in 2012 and 2015. They also won the seven MIAC Championships in the last 10 seasons.

– Head Coach Glenn Caruso was hired in January, 2008 and holds a 126-21 record over a 13-year span. Since 2009, St. Thomas has the third-best winning percentage in Division III.

-St. Thomas comes into 2021 having won 35 of its last 36 on-campus games, including 27 in a row played there during the season. They regularly draw more than 10,000 fans for an annual rivalry matchup with St. John’s University.

-The purple and grey graduated 2019 All-American and Conference Player of the Year running back Josh Parks, the team’s all-time leading rusher and scorer. Senior quarterback Tommy Dolan (2019: 10 starts, 1,924 yards, 19 touchdown passes, seven interceptions) leads a group of 13 returners with starting experience. First-team all-conference returners are center Matt Weimann, tackle Eli Wawracz, corner Joe Hird, and running back Tom Loeffler.

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE 

The Huskies have two GLIAC Championships (2004, 2012) and two NCAA Tournament appearances (2004, 2014) in their 98-year history. Michigan Tech has also won the Miner’s Cup 10 seasons in a row, awarded in the Michigan Tech/Northern Michigan rivalry. The Wildcats came tantalizingly close to getting their moment in the sun at Kearly Stadium in 2019, but the Huskies snatched the 24-20 win.

ON THE RADIO

– Mix 93.5 FM WKMJ will broadcast all 10 football games again this season. Josh Ylitalo will call all the action from the Kearly Stadium press box and travel with the squad.

WATCH THE GAMES

– Visit MichiganTechHuskies.com to watch the 2021 home matches live and on-demand via Stretch Internet Portal.

-Fan can watch all six 2021 fall home football games for $75.

PRESEASON GLIAC POLL

-Michigan Tech was picked to finish 5th (24 points) in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Pre-season Coaches’ Poll, announced by the conference office. 

Ferris State and Grand Valley State are at the top of the rankings at No. 1 and No. 2 respectively. The Bulldogs edged the Lakers for the top spot by six points with 49. Ferris State also gathered seven first place votes while Grand Valley State had one. Wayne State checked in at No. 3 with 36 points with Saginaw Valley State at No. 4 with 25 points.