The margin of error to make the playoffs is so small in college football. Michigan Tech knows that all too well after missing them with an 8-2 record last year. However, with the wheels coming off the bus at Grand Valley State - they are now 0-3 in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference - the door is wide open for Tech (3-1, 2-1 GLIAC) to make a serious push for its first postseason berth since 2004.
There's a lot of season left, and it might seem overkill to discuss playoffs at the end of September, but with that as the ultimate goal, it doesn't hurt to keep an eye on the big picture. Even Huskies head coach Tom Kearly briefly looked beyond his typical one-week-at-a-time philosophy following Tech's 28-16 win over Indianapolis.
"This keeps us where we want to be in the hunt. I think in this league you get two chips, and when you lose a game you throw a chip in. We've already had to throw one of our chips in," said Kearly, acknowledging a tough 27-10 week two loss to Wayne State. "We want to play as long as we can and not have to throw another chip in. Right now, we know we're going into October and we've only used up one of our chips."
The Huskies showed plenty of promising signs in the bounce-back win over Indianapolis. The defense, battered and bruised from an unusually physical game at Wayne State, held UIndy to just 18 yards rushing. The Greyhounds tallied 244 total yards of offense, about 200 yards under their season average heading into the game.
Huskies freshman quarterback Tyler Scarlett showcased his ability to rebound from the WSU loss in which he threw three interceptions. Instead, Scarlett threw just three incompletions in 19 attempts Saturday.
"It was big to get that taste out of our mouth," said the level-headed, soft-spoken Scarlett after Saturday's game. "It was good to come out here and play well on both sides of the ball."
Kearly couldn't help but crack a smile in thinking of Scarlett's performance and bright future.
"He probably gets too much of the credit when we win," he joked as the Huskies pep band surrounded Scarlett and sang "You Are My Sunshine" after the game, "but he played very well, very poised, didn't make a mistake and we didn't turn the ball over other than a fumbled snap on a punt."
The Huskies running game, which still has the lowest yards per carry (3.1) in the GLIAC after three weeks, showed signs of improvement after being stymied against Winona State and Wayne State. Tech only averaged 2.5 yards per carry against UIndy, but rushed the ball 51 times, many against a loaded box while carrying a lead.
Kearly had said going into the UIndy game freshman running back Charlie Leffingwell would get in the mix in the backfield as well alongside Akeem Cason and Cedrick Barber. He didn't against the Greyhounds, but Kearly said, "We planned to (play Leffingwell), but we only had four possessions in the first half. Then we got to the second half and we didn't want to put him in then because he was cold. We'll play Charlie."
With all facets of the game starting to click, Michigan Tech makes its first trip to Ohio Dominican (2-2, 1-2 GLIAC) this weekend before a critical two-game homestand against Saginaw Valley State (3-0, 3-0 GLIAC) and Hillsdale (3-1, 3-0 GLIAC). Three of the Huskies' final four games are on the road, including an Oct. 29 game at reeling GVSU and Nov. 12 regular season finale against rival Northern Michigan (now 3-1, 2-1 GLIAC).
Stephen Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.