HILLSDALE, Mich. - The Michigan Tech football team defeated Hillsdale 29-14 in the 2019 season opener Saturday afternoon on the road. The Huskies held the Chargers to 160 yards of total offense and negative nine yards rushing over the course of 60 minutes. Tech has now won a season opener for the 10th straight time dating back to 2010 when they defeated Lake Erie College 42-13.
"It was a tremendous way to start the season," Michigan Tech Head Coach Steve Olson said. "To go on the road against a tough Hillsdale team and come away with a win was big for our team today. I thought our players really did a nice job.
"We had a couple of big pass plays with Will Ark finding Ben Hartley in the second quarter for touchdowns that really got us going. I thought the other key to the game is that we controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. I was very happy with our run defense and our ability to run the football on offense. We felt like our defensive line and the depth we have at that position were a strength of our team coming into the season and I felt we showed that today."
Michigan Tech (1-0) jumped on the board first with 8:06 left in the first quarter on 41-yard field goal by Evan Gornick. The kick was setup by junior Michael Betz who stepped in front of a Luke Keller pass for his first career interception at the Hillsdale 40-yard line. Three carries by sophomore running back Jared Smith took the ball down to the 24-yard, setting up the three-pointer.
Hillsdale (0-1) countered on the ensuing possession when Keller bounced back from the interception by finding Joe Bentley for a 73-yard touchdown pass less than two minutes later. The extra point was good, making it a 7-3 score with 6:41 left in the opening quarter.
The Huskies had an answer and used a textbook 14 play 67-yard drive to power back in front. Tech chewed up yardage bit by bit and with it took time off the clock to the tune of 7:19. The Huskies ended the game with a 41:09 to 18:51 advantage in time of possession. Facing a fourth and goal at the Hillsdale one-yard line, junior quarterback Will Ark pushed his away across the goal line for his first rushing touchdown of the year. It granted the Huskies a 10-7 lead at the 14:17 mark of the second quarter.
The Huskies would never relinquish the lead and established the momentum and a strong foothold on the scoreboard at the end of the second quarter. Ark connected with senior Ben Hartley on a 17-yard touchdown pass with just 22 seconds to go in the first half, extending the lead to 17-7.
On the ensuing kickoff, Gornick did an excellent job of sending the ball high in the air and short into some open space of the Chargers kick return unit. Hillsdale fumbled the kick and junior Hunter Richards recovered at the Hillsdale 26-yard line. Two plays later, the Huskies were back in the end zone again. Ark linked up with Hartley one more time on a 26-yard strike with six seconds on the clock, extending the lead to 23-7 at the intermission.
The Chargers produced their second and only other touchdown of the afternoon at the 10:17 juncture of the third quarter. Hillsdale put together a seven play 68-yard scoring drive that culminated on a 14-yard pass from Keller to Bentley.
Leading 23-14 at the start of the fourth quarter, the Huskies racked up some key insurance points on the first play of the final frame. On a first and goal from the Chargers three-yard line, Smith took the ball to the house for the first time in 2019, moving Tech's lead to 29-14. The Huskies defense halted the Hillsdale attack the rest of the way to secure win number one of the 2019 campaign.
Smith finished the day with 172 yards rushing on 29 carries to help guide Tech's offense on Saturday. Smith added two receptions for 21 yards on his way to 193 all-purpose yards for the afternoon. Ark completed 21 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns while contributing 22 yards and a touchdown on nine carries, including a couple of key scrambles for first downs and the touchdown. Hartley reeled in six receptions for 81 yards and caught both of Ark's touchdowns passes Saturday. Senior Jacob Wenzlick and junior Jordan Janssen each hauled in four passes for 49 and 45 yards respectively.
As a team, the Huskies piled up 411 yards of total offense on 83 total plays. Tech generated 214 yards on the ground and 197 through the air at Hillsdale. The Huskies also converted on four of five fourth down conversions and were 8 of 17 on third down conversions.
Meanwhile, Tech's defense limited Hillsdale's offense to 160 total yards on offense and negative nine yards on the ground. The Chargers were just 2 of 11 on third down conversions and had the ball for only 18:51. Tech's defense forced four turnovers which setup points and kept the Chargers off balance. Keller was consistently under pressure and the running lanes were very limited due to multiple excellent performances from the middle of the Huskies defense.
Senior Travis Tidwell and sophomore John Paramski each had a team high five tackles. Tidwell had his first interception of the season and also forced a fumble in Saturday's victory. Betz had the other interception for the Huskies and senior Nate LaJoie had three stops, including 1.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for a loss. Paramski had a forced fumble, sack, and a fumble recovery.
Keller completed 8 of 22 passes for 169 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions in his collegiate debut. Running back David Graham, who was just shy of 1,000 yards rushing last year, was limited to only 15 yards on nine carries. Bentley had four catches for 102 yards and both scores at the wide receiver position. Hillsdale's defense was led by Zach Herzog with a game high 20 tackles followed by Dan Shanley with 12 tackles and a sack. Drake Temple closed the day with six tackles and both of Hillsdale's interceptions.
The Huskies will be back on the road next Saturday when they travel to McKendree University for another non-conference matchup in week two of the season. It will be the first ever meeting between the two programs.
The Bearcats lost 30-9 at Northern Michigan University Saturday in their season opener. The kickoff from Lebanon, Ill is slated for 2 p.m. eastern time next weekend.