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Stage set for marquee matchup/Inside the Huskies

September 25, 2012
By Stephen Anderson - DMG Sports Writer ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

Last Saturday's 35-10 win over Findlay was a big win for Michigan Tech, but, more than anything, the Huskies' 3-0 start is a stage setter for what could be one of the biggest game in school history.

In 2010, Tech shocked then-No. 1 Grand Valley State, at a time when the Lakers were viewed as almost invincible. Even with a few chinks in their armor since then - three losses in 2011 - GVSU visits Houghton this Saturday as the No. 3 team in the country with a 4-0 overall record and 3-0 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference record.

"This one today was billed by the chats and all that as probably the game of the week in the league, and we told the kids, 'You get this one, next week you may be playing the D2 game of the week in the country,'" Tech coach Tom Kearly said after Saturday's win against Findlay.

It'll also be the second night game in Sherman Field history, and Tech is making a concerted effort to draw the biggest crowd in school history.

In its "Drive for 5 (5,000 fans)" promotion, Tech is selling $5 adult tickets and $3 youth tickets all week long, hoping to beat the mark of 4,332 set in the 2004 home opener against Northern Michigan

Ticket prices shouldn't be the only incentive to attend Saturday's game.

I'll delve deeper into the match-up in my Friday preview article, but a quick glance at current GLIAC statistics should prove the quality of football fans should expect Saturday evening.

Grand Valley State has the league's No. 1 scoring offense at 51.2 points per game. Michigan Tech has the league's No. 1 scoring defense at 10.7 points per game.

Unstoppable force, meet immovable object.

Strangely enough, GVSU is last in the GLIAC in time of possession at 26:59, while Tech is first at 34:44.

A big key to Tech's excellent ball control has been its deep rushing attack.

When Tech beat GVSU in 2010, running back Phil Milbrath carried the ball 33 times for 293 rushing yards in that game alone.

This year's Huskies are maintaining that run-first approach, but doing it in a completely different way.

Milbrath truly fit the definition of workhorse for Tech, but Charlie Leffingwell, Akeem Cason and Cedrick Barber are forming a formidable three-headed monster for the Huskies. Each has at least 22 carries, 129 yards and two rushing touchdowns. None has more than 47 carries, 229 yards and three rushing touchdowns.

Those three may play an even bigger role this Saturday against the Lakers' league-worst rushing defense, which has allowed 248.8 yards per game. Altogether, GVSU is allowing a second-worst 492 total yards per game. Incidentally, Tech is best in that category, giving up just 256 total yards per game. And GVSU surrendered 41 points against Ohio Dominican last Saturday.

From Tech's perspective, the No. 3 team in the country may be ripe for the picking - especially for a Huskies defensive unit that's proved it's simply reloading, not rebuilding.

Of course they'll need all the ammunition they can muster this week against GVSU, but they proved two years ago it can be done. Now they want to repeat the feat in front of the largest Tech home crowd ever.

"Playing a top team, they're undefeated, we're undefeated, and we have them here at night. Hopefully we have good weather and hopefully we'll get the crowd to pack this place," Kearly said.

Stephen Anderson can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at



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