Huskies Kickoff 2019 Season Saturday at Hillsdale



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Sep 05, 2019      

Houghton, Mich. (MTU Athletics/WJMN) – Michigan Tech Game Notes .   Hillsdale Game Notes
Sat., Sept. 7, 2019 • 1:00 p.m. (ET) • Frank Waters Stadium (8,500)
Michigan Tech (0-0, 0-0 GLIAC) at Hillsdale (0-0, 0-0 GMAC)
Radio Broadcast: WKMJ 93.5 FM (Josh Ylitalo, Kirk McDonnell)
Audio Webcast:
Live Stats:

Michigan Tech wrapped up the 2018 campaign with an overall record of 4-6 while going 2-6 in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The Huskies claimed the Miner’s Cup for the ninth straight season with a 35-33 victory at rival Northern Michigan in week nine of the season. Tech had strong 2019 spring and fall camps as the team gets set to battle Hillsdale in the season opener Saturday.

The Huskies are riding a nine game winning streak in season openers going into Saturday’s showdown at Hillsdale. Tech is 9-0 to kickoff the year dating back to 2010. This year’s opener will be the second in a row on the road for the Huskies after hosting opponents to kickoff the season in 2015, 2016, and 2017. Truman State was the opponent a year ago, with Tech prevailing 20-10 on August 30. A 42-13 win at Lake Erie College in 2010 began the current winning streak in season openers.

The Huskies named their four captains for the 2019 season this week. This year’s captains, selected by a team vote, are offensive lineman Jeremy Bell, defensive back Travis Tidwell, wide receiver Jacob Wenzlick, and linebacker Marshael Ryan. All four players are entering their senior year with the Huskies. Bell, a 2017 2nd Team All-GLIAC selection, will help anchor an offensive line that produced 20.4 points and averaged 328.6 yards per game a year ago. The Huskies were fourth in the GLIAC in passing yards per contest at 197.9 and fourth in fewest tackles for a loss allowed per game (5.70). The Huskies averaged 130.7 yards per game rushing last season.

Tidwell will be a key leader in the secondary and for the overall defense for the Huskies in 2019. Tidwell, who hails from Detroit, Michigan, was fourth on the team in tackles in 2018 with 56 over the course of 10 games. Tidwell also posted 1.5 tackles for a loss, had four pass breakups and one interception; the fifth of his career. Tidwell now owns 197 career tackles, seven tackles for a loss, a forced fumble, fumble recovery, and 24 pass breakups in 31 games as a Husky. Tidwell was an All-GLIAC Honorable Mention selection each of the past two seasons and was named the GLIAC Freshman of the Year in 2016.

On the field last year as a junior, Wenzlick was a 2018 Don Hansen Third Team All-American and a First Team All-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference selection, leading the Huskies with 872 receiving yards while ranking fourth in the GLIAC this past season. He shared the team lead in touchdown receptions with four, ranked third in the conference in receiving yards per game (87.2), and was second in the GLIAC in receptions per game (5.2). In special teams, Wenzlick led the conference in both combined kick return yards (873) and in all-purpose yards per game at 180.60. His combined yardage total was third best in all of NCAA Division II while the all-purpose numbers ranked fourth in the nation. Wenzlick broke a single season school record for kickoff return yardage with 819 in 2018.

Ryan returns after a solid junior season in 2018. Ryan, who hails from Linden, Michigan, had a breakout year in 2018 with 70 tackles in 10 games, third most for the Huskies. He averaged seven tackles per game with seven tackles for a loss and two pass breakups. Ryan recorded a career high 12 tackles at Grand Valley State (Sept. 22) and had eight or more stops in a game five times.

In addition to the returning captains on offense, other key returners who will look to make an impact are senior wide receiver Ben Hartley, sophomore running back Jared Smith, and junior quarterback Will Ark. Hartley, who hails from West Branch, Michigan, had an outstanding year for the Huskies in 2018 and was an All-GLIAC Honorable Mention selection. Hartley was second on the team in total receptions (44) and reception yards with 597. He shared the team lead in touchdown catches with Wenzlick. Hartley also completed three passes for 168 yards, with two of the completions going to the house for touchdowns.

Smith emerged as the go to tailback for Tech in 2018. Smith, who arrived at Tech from Westphalia, Michigan, played in all 10 games for the Huskies in 2018 and led the team in rushing with 577 yards on 104 carries. He averaged 57.7 yards per game and 5.5 yards per carry while finding the end zone on the ground three times. Smith cruised for a season high 198 yards against Wayne State (Oct. 13).

Ark stepped into the starting role, appearing in all 10 games for Tech in 2018. Ark, a native of Green Bay, Wisconsin, completed 132 passes for 1,654 yards and 10 touchdowns while adding four rushing touchdowns to the stats sheet. He passed for a season high 306 yards and two touchdowns against Ferris State (10/6/18) and tossed three TD passes at Grand Valley State (9/22/18).

On the defensive side of the ball, senior Xavier Ciardo will help anchor the front four of Tech’s base 4-2-5 defense. Ciardo, a native of Kenosha, Wisconsin, had a breakout year, establishing a career high 41 tackles, two sacks, and seven tackles for a loss for the Huskies in 2018. Ciardo played in all 10 games and added a forced fumble, fumble recovery, and two pass breakups to his tackle totals. He was an All-GLIAC Honorable Mention selection following the 2018 season.

Joining Ciardo on the defensive line is senior Mattias Hoehnen. Hoehnen is from Brookfield, Wisconsin and played in all 10 games for Tech. He racked up a single season career high of 34 tackles and 5.5 tackles for a loss last year. In addition, he delivered 2.5 sacks, had a pass breakup, and a blocked kick.

Sophomore defensive back Braxton Blackwell is coming off a strong freshman season in 2018. Blackwell is from South Lyon, Michigan and played in nine games for the Huskies, finishing the year fourth on the team in total tackles with 57. He averaged 6.3 tackles per game, posted 2.5 tackles for a loss and broke up two passes. He posted 10 or more tackles in three games, including a career high 12 stops against Ferris State (10/6/18).

Hillsdale is coming off an impressive 2018 season that produced a 10-3 overall record, a Great Midwest Athletic Conference championship, and a trip to the NCAA Playoff Regional Semifinal. Following the loss at Tech, the Chargers reeled off eight straight wins before a 34-24 setback at Indianapolis in the regular season finale. Hillsdale won in the first round of the playoffs at Kutztown 40-26 before narrowly falling at Notre Dame College (Ohio) 19-14 in the regional semifinal. The Chargers averaged just over 414 yards of total offense and 32.1 points per game last season. Senior quarterback Chance Stewart passed for 3,588 yards and tossed 28 touchdowns in 2018. Hillsdale will have a new quarterback under center this year with redshirt freshman Luke Keller taking over the signal calling. Senior running back David Graham returns after carrying the ball 217 times for 939 yards and 16 touchdowns and will play a major roll in the Chargers offense this season. The Hillsdale defense limited opponents to just 19.6 points per game and 374.9 yards of total offense in 2018. Linebacker Dan Shanley is the top returner in terms of tackles with 68 a year ago. He averaged 5.2 points per game and produced a forced fumble, fumble recovery, an interception, and three pass breakups.

Saturday’s game will be the 29th overall meeting between the two programs, with Hillsdale holding a 19-9 advantage in the all-time series. The Huskies have won three of the last five showdowns with the Chargers, including a thrilling 31-30 overtime victory at Sherman Field in 2018. Tech jumped ahead early and then rallied with a late fourth scoring drive to force overtime on the way to the win. 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. 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.

Michigan Tech is picked to finish 9th (16 points) in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Preseason Coaches’ Poll, announced in early August by the conference office. Ferris State and Ashland are at the top of the rankings at No. 1 and No. 2 respectively. The Bulldogs edged the Eagles for the top spot by nine points with 64. Ferris State had eight first place votes while Ashland accumulated 55 total points. Grand Valley State checked in at No. 3 with 51 points and one first place vote. Ferris State and Grand Valley State both advanced to the NCAA Division II playoffs last season. Saginaw Valley State (No. 4, 42 points), Davenport (Tied No. 5, 30 points), and Wayne State (Tied No. 5, 30 points) are the next three in line. Northern Michigan was slated seventh with 19 points followed by Northwood at No. 8 with 17 points and then Tech at No. 9 with 16 points.

Michigan Tech Head Coach Steve Olson is getting set to embark on his third season at the reigns of the program when the Huskies kickoff their season Saturday at Hillsdale. The Huskies went 4-6 in 2018, but retained the Miner’s Cup for the ninth straight year with a 35-33 win at Northern Michigan. This will be Olson’s ninth overall season as a coach at Tech. He served as the defensive coordinator for three seasons prior to being selected as the head coach for the 2017 season.

The 2019 season will once again feature two alumni reunions. The 1969 NIC Conference Championship team will have their 50th reunion Homecoming Weekend September 27-28 which will be highlighted with multiple events and Tech’s showdown with Grand Valley State University. The 1989 Alumni Reunion will be Oct. 11-12 when the Huskies take on Northern Michigan in the annual Miner’s Cup Game. This reunion will feature a number of great events as well.

The Huskies welcomed Jace Daniels to the coaching staff as the new offensive line coach during the offseason. Daniels, a native of Escanaba, Michigan, brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Huskies staff. Over the past two seasons at Northern Michigan, Daniels led an offensive line that created running lanes for Jake Mayon who earned Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Offensive Back of the Year honors in back to back seasons. Three of his offensive linemen garnered All-Conference accolades during his two seasons. Daniels helped coach a Northern Michigan offense that ranked second in the GLIAC during the 2018 campaign in rushing yards per game (241.8), yards per carry (5.0), rushing touchdowns (29), and first downs gained on the ground (146). The total offensive yardage for the Wildcats this past season was third most in the GLIAC at 381.1 yards per game.

Michigan Tech is back on the road next week when the team heads south to Lebanon, Illinois to face Mckendree University for the first time in program history. The Bearcats open their season Saturday in Marquette with a battle against Northern Michigan University. Mckendree wrapped up the 2018 campaign with an overall record of 6-5. They were 4-3 in the Great Lakes Valley Conference.

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