ALLENDALE, Mich. – In preparation for their match against No. 9 Ferris State Bulldogs Last Saturday, Michigan Tech Huskies football coach Dan Mettlach said he hoped no one gave his team a chance to win the game. The Huskies fell behind 21-7 at halftime, but scored twice in the third quarter to keep things interesting.
In the end, the Huskies lost 35-21, but Mettlach felt his team left some opportunities on the table to make the game close.
“I thought our guys played well,” he said. “At the end of the day, (we had) a few mistakes, whether it was giving up a point on that first drive offensively, or not being able to get out of bounds, on third down, defensively. You can’t give up a shutout.
“There are a few games we wish we had, because at the end of the day, if we can knock a team like that down, that’s a mistake we can’t afford.”
At the same time, Mettlach says some of the fault lies in confidence.
“There are some games right now where we just have to have that dog, that confidence, to go make those plays,” he said, “Being able to get off the field, or get the ball in the end, if we beat a team like that.”
One of the best things for the Huskies in the game was the play of junior quarterback Alex Fries. Fries threw for a career-high 306 yards on 23 carries. He also ran the ball six times for 40 yards in the contest.
After being injured in the first game of the season against Hillsdale, Fries was limited in his comfort zone. However, over the past three games, Mettlach feels he is finally showing what he can do now that he is healthy.
“He played well against Hillsdale,” said Metlach. “Unfortunately, he passed out, so we were kind of shackled a little bit over the next few weeks. (We’ve had) Wayne get healthy, and I feel like the last three weeks, he’s been steadily climbing in terms of what he’s been able to do, and what he’s been able to do since we got healthy.”
Fries can make life difficult for defenders because of his mobility, which helps the Huskies to go forward.
“We haven’t lost a bag in three weeks,” Mettach said. “A lot of this happens because of his feet to get us out of trouble, knowing when to lose it.” So, there are tons of them doing it (and we’re) happy about it. “
Now that he’s healthy, Mettlach said the next step in his evolution will be for the coaching staff to expand his playbook, which will give the Huskies a variety of options.
The Huskies got a lot of players involved in their offense against the Bulldogs. Five different players rushed the ball, including sophomore quarterback Drew Collins, who had one carry for 20 yards and a touchdown. Then, through the air, the Huskies picked up seven players, with senior receiver Brandon Michalak leading the way with five catches for 92 yards. Sophomore wide receiver Ethan Champney had just two catches, but one was a touchdown.
Fifth-year running back William Marano had seven catches for 28 yards in the game.
“That’s the plan every week,” Mettach said. “It’s not always the case based on what we see in the media, or different defenses, but it can affect a lot of guys, but we’ve got them.”
Mettlach liked the way the Huskies worked Marano in the passing game.
“We didn’t try to run too much, but for Willie to get involved in transitions and looks, etc., getting a lot of guys involved, you know, it makes us stronger defensively,” he said.
CHANGING THE LAKERS
This week, the Huskies travel to face the Grand Valley State Lakers. Since dropping their season opener at No. 2 Colorado School of Mines, the Lakers have won six straight games, including three in GLIAC play.
They defeated then-No. 1 Ferris State two weeks ago, 49-28, before beating Northern Michigan last week, 73-14. The Lakers average 52.86 points per game while holding their opponents to 21.43.
The offense is led by senior quarterback Cade Peterson, who is 88-of-140 for 1318 yards and 14 touchdowns already this season. He’s also good with his feet, rushing 51 times for 372 yards and three touchdowns.
Junior wide receiver Cody Tierney has been his favorite target with 26 receptions for 465 yards and five touchdowns. Junior wide receiver Kyle Nott has also been good with 12 receptions for 228 yards and three touchdowns.
Senior running back Tariq Reid has led the offense on the ground with 78 carries for 406 yards and five touchdowns.
On defense, senior defensive lineman Christian McCarroll has been very solid. He has 12 tackles and 23 assists. He also has six sacks.
The Huskies and Lakers will meet at Lubbers Stadium on Saturday with kickoff at 3 p.m.