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Great start, but tough test ahead/Inside the Huskies

September 13, 2011
By Stephen Anderson - DMG Sports Writer (sanderson@mininggazette.com) , The Daily Mining Gazette

The Michigan Tech football team is right where it wants to be at 2-0, but having played a non-conference opponent and last year's 11th place Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference finisher, it's hard to really get a feel for how the Huskies stack up against the elite teams in the GLIAC and across Division II.

Michigan Tech faces its toughest test this weekend when it visits Wayne State. The Huskies, ranked 19th nationally by D2football.com and 22nd by Division II?coaches, and Warriors, No. 13 by D2football and No. 14 by coaches, are first and second in the GLIAC in scoring defense at 8 and 12 points per game allowed, respectively.

While Tech has tallied two double-digit victories so far, the Warriors' offense is lighting up the scoreboard with alarming frequency, even considering their weak strength of schedule to date. WSU is averaging 62 points per game, and has found the end zone 18 times through just eight quarters.

To put it in perspective, Tech is averaging 30 fewer points per game, and has 10 fewer touchdowns. Even Grand Valley State has about 25 fewer points per game and eight touchdowns fewer than Wayne State.

What happens when an unstoppable force - Wayne State offense - meets an immovable object - Michigan Tech defense? I guesss we'll find out Saturday.

Tech's defense will clearly be tested, but perhaps the key to victory lies in the hands of the offense. If Tech's offense wants to challenge the Warrior defense - and perhaps more importantly, keep WSU's offense of the field - they'll need to continue developing a consistent running game.

The Huskies nearly doubled their Week 1 rushing output on Saturday (255-129), which is a step in the right direction, but Wayne State has surrendered just 82 yards total on the ground throught two weeks, a 1.7 yards per carry average.

Tech averaged 5.3 yards per carry in 2010, and after a 4.6-yard average Saturday, the Huskies' season average is 3.8 yards per carry so far this year.

"There's no question we ran the ball better than we did a week ago," Tech coach Tom Kearly said after Saturday's 41-10 whomping of Lake Erie. "I thought a lot of (the rushing problem in Week 1) was attributed to Winona's front. They were very stout. (Saturday), the bodies weren't quite the size of Winona."

Because the Huskies were able to control Lake Erie physically, effectively using three running backs, Tech was able to control the clock handily as well, possessing the ball for 38:04.

The Huskies cannot expect to maintain possession for almost two thirds of the game against Wayne State, but if they can possess it for more than half the game, they should be in good shape.

Tech was second in the GLIAC in time of possession last year (32:31/game), which played a key role in securing an 8-2 overall record.

Likewise, Tech's 39:06/game total this year has helped the Huskies coast to 2-0. Even though both Tech games this year have been double-digit victories, the Huskies will not be getting overconfident any time soon.

"I have no worries about overconfidence," Kearly said. "We have a long way to go, especially offensively."

If the Huskies can continue progressing on offense, and stay true to form on defense, perhaps a repeat of last year's 24-7 Tech win over Wayne State is in order. But, if there's anything we learned this past weekend, anything can happen when two evenly matched teams meet up on the gridiron. Just ask Notre Dame.

Stephen Anderson can be reached at sanderson@mininggazette.com.

 
 

 

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