The secondary was the biggest question mark for the Michigan Tech football team entering this season. Saturday, it was the Huskies' biggest key to victory.
Tech, hanging onto a narrow 10-7 lead, had squandered several offensive chances in the second quarter and failed to convert a fourth and one early in the third quarter. Walsh, fresh off that momentum shift, had the chance to take the lead in its first-ever Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference home opener.
Cue up Tech's secondary.
Three plays into the Cavalier drive, safety Emmett Bjorn picked off a Jack Dawson pass and returned it 36 yards to the Walsh 20 yard line.
"That's a critical situation. If they go down and score, they're leading in the second half and we're on the road," Tech coach Tom Kearly said. "Emmett Bjorn picked the ball off - I thought that was the play of the ballgame. Two plays later we scored."
It was 17-7 Tech after a Charlie Leffingwell 6-yard touchdown run.
Ensuing drive: Walsh punt.
Tech's next drive: 11 plays capped off by another Leffingwell touchdown, this time a 4-yard pass from Tyler Scarlett.
Now, it's 24-7 Tech.
The drive after that: Cue up Tech's secondary again.
Cornerback DeShawn Nelson picked off Dawson on Walsh's first play, leading to yet another rushing touchdown, this time a 4-yard run by Akeem Cason.
Now it's 30-7 Tech after a Garrett Mead missed extra point.
"That was not a great passing offense that we faced - they're more of a running team - but I thought DeShawn Nelson played well, Emmett Bjorn played well, (cornerback) Jeremy Mims played well," Kearly said.
"I'm really pleased with how we played on the back end of the defense."
That previously potent Cavalier rushing attack never got in gear either. Tech held Walsh to just 56 yards on the ground - total. The previous week against Northwood, two Cavalier running backs tallied at least 56 yards - each.
As for Tech's other big question mark entering the season, its rushing attack, that was pretty key, too.
The Huskies had three tailbacks tally at least 50 yards - Leffingwell 65, Cason 57, Cedrick Barber 50 - in tallying 190 total rushing yards. That's certainly a step in the right direction after last year's 151.3-yard rushing average, which was good for 11th of 14 GLIAC teams.
Even though team statistics aren't too telling through two weeks, Tech's 206.5-yard rushing average is fifth in the GLIAC.
"If we can run the ball for 190 yards every game, I'll be really happy," Kearly said.
But even Kearly admits that - even though no GLIAC games are easy - Tech's 2-0 record has probably come against the easiest opponents on its progressively harder schedule.
"We know that. We understand there's a lot of meat and potatoes left on that schedule," he said.
The GLIAC North Division is currently 11-5 against South Division teams through two weeks of conference play, and the Huskies have to play each North Division team yet - plus one of the only two 2-0 South Division teams in Findlay this weekend at home (Ashland is the other).
"The more we watch Findlay, the more we realize what type of football team is coming in here," Kearly said.
The Oilers are currently the No. 1 passing team in the GLIAC with 322 passing yards per game.
Cue up Tech's secondary.