DII football: Michigan Tech shocks No. 9 Ashland with late score
HOUGHTON, Mich. — Michigan Tech pulled off a 24-21 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference upset victory over No. 9 Ashland on Saturday afternoon at Sherman Field. The Huskies posted the game-winning touchdown with 36 seconds left in the fourth quarter when senior quarterback Brandon Cowie found senior wide receiver David Walter in the end zone for an eight-yard touchdown pass.
"Today we played well, and although we made some mistakes we played so hard and I'm very proud of this football team," said Michigan Tech head coach Tom Kearly. "Our players are playing for three things: pride, the university and the guy next to them on the line of scrimmage. Sometimes when the grand goals aren't out there, the ability to play for those three things sometimes doesn't happen. It did today because we played as hard as we could play."
Michigan Tech (3-5, 3-5 GLIAC) needed a good start to have a chance to pull off the upset and a strong first quarter built the foundation for what was to come. The Huskie defense stopped Ashland (7-2, 5-2 GLIAC) on four plays to force a punt to start the game. Following the kick by Austin Bruns, Tech took over on its own 16-yard line with 12:29 remaining in the first quarter.
The Huskies engineered their longest drive of the season time-wise, chewing up seven minutes and 44 seconds off the clock. The march was 17 plays long and ended with a 28-yard field goal by junior Josh King. It was King's eighth field goal make of the year, and he needs only two more to tie the single-season school record of 10. Tech racked up yardage both through the air and on the ground, including a 10-yard third-down pass to junior wide receiver Ian Fischer. Fischer would be a major factor in the offenses success as the afternoon continued.
Neither team could muster any further points until the page turned to the second quarter with 10:27 on the clock. The Eagles would strike for the first time when quarterback Travis Tarnowski found tight end Adam Shaheen for a 12-yard touchdown pass. Shaheen had 12 touchdown catches coming into Saturday's and was among the nation's leaders in that category.
It didn't take long for the Huskies to strike back and just under two minutes later Tech was in the end zone for the first time. Three straight successful running plays by junior running back John Williams set the table for the longest play of the season to this point for Tech. Cowie threaded a pass to Fischer over the middle which turned into a 64-yard touchdown as Fischer alluded one defender after another on his way down the field. The extra point by King gave the Huskies a 10-7 edge with 8:39 remaining on the clock until the break.
The score remained that way until the fourth quarter thanks to solid defense by both teams. Freshman defensive back Travis Tidwell helped thwart an Ashland scoring threat with the first of his two interceptions with just under seven minutes to go in the second quarter. Tidwell leaped into the air to intercept a Tarnowski pass at the 2-yard line and give the ball back to the Huskies.
As the game progressed into the third quarter, the Eagles recorded their only interception of the game when safety Terrell Hudson stepped in front of a Cowie pass at the Ashland 11-yard line. However, the Huskies defense returned the favor when freshman linebacker Marvin Wright picked off Tarnowski in the end zone to keep the Eagles off the board once again.
It would be a sprint to the finish in the fourth quarter as Tech and Ashland would combine for four touchdowns in the final 15 minutes. The Eagles would be the first to break the goal line again and move back in front. Tarnowski fired a 33-yard touchdown pass on a seam route to receiver Matthew Wilcox with just 13 minutes to go.
Tech was forced to punt on the ensuing possession, but was given new life when Dale Irby fumbled the return at the Ashland 33-yard line. Walter was there to fall on the ball for the Huskies and the offense proceeded to take the field again. On a fourth and three play at the Ashland 14, Williams appeared to be on his way to the end zone, but a holding penalty brought the ball back to the 21-yard line. On fourth-and-10, the Huskies went for it and it paid off. Cowie found Fischer for a 21-yard touchdown pass to push the Huskies back in front. The point after by King split the uprights for a 17-14 Tech advantage.
Unfortunately, the Huskies didn't stay on top for long as Ashland moved down the field on the ensuing drive to reclaim the edge. The big play came when Tarnowski dialed up a 57-yard pass to Wilcox which placed the ball at the Tech seven. Three plays later, running back Vance Settlemire powered his way into the end zone from two yards away. With the extra point successful, the Eagles found themselves ahead 21-17 with 3:11 to play.
Following the kickoff, the Huskies took over at their own 25-yard line needing to go the length of the field to have a chance at the win. Cowie confidently guided the offense down the field, completing nine of 10 passes on what would prove to be the game-winning drive. Five of those completions were to Walter, including an eight-yard touchdown strike on third down and six from the Ashland 8. Walter dragged his feet in the back of the end zone as he slid to the turf for the game winning points.
Ashland got the ball back with 31 seconds left and all three timeouts, needing just a field goal to tie down 24-21. After a completion from Tarnowski to Stewart Turner for a short gain of two yards, Tarnowski tested the Tech defense over the middle and paid the price. Tidwell was waiting and grabbed his second interception of the game. Ashland got the ball back again with one second left, but sophomore defensive lineman Cody Goldsworthy and senior lineman Evan Mayer converged on Tarnowkski for a sack to end the game.
Cowie guided the Huskies offense, completing 21 of 30 passes for 241 yards and three touchdowns. Fischer caught five of those throws for 116 yards and his first two touchdowns of the season. Walter had a team high seven receptions for 59 yards and one touchdown grab. Senior running back Kevin Miller led the ground assault with 65 yards on 16 carries in Saturday afternoon's victory. As a team, the Huskies had 378 yards of total offense with 241 through the air and 137 on the ground.
Wright and linebacker Ben Tauchen each had 13 tackles to lead the defense with Wright notching his first interception of the season. Freshman defensive back Glacier Wallington had a season-high 11 tackles with two pass breakups. Tidwell accumulated six tackles to go with his two interceptions and has now intercepted opposing quarterbacks four times this season.
Tarnowski was 24-of-37 on the afternoon through the air with 256 yards and two touchdowns for Ashland. Settlemire had 84 yards on 17 carries and had the one rushing touchdown in the game. Wilcox caught three passes for 98 yards and one touchdown. Shaheen was limited to four catches for 26 yards and one touchdown. The Eagles had 406 yards of total offense Saturday afternoon. Zach Olszewski had a team high 13 tackles followed by Terrell Hudson with 10 stops and an interception for the Ashland defense.