HOUGHTON - A school-record crowd witnessed an incredible Michigan Tech comeback Saturday evening against No. 3 Grand Valley State, but the No. 22 Huskies were done in by a poor first half, losing their first game of the season, 51-43.
Tech trailed GVSU 51-14 with 3:51 left in the third quarter before rattling off 29 points in just over 16 minutes. But, time ran out on a potential game-tying drive in front of 4,684 fans at Sherman Field, the largest home crowd ever at any Tech sporting event in Houghton.
"Our football team owes this Tech community and the Houghton/Hancock community a great deal of thanks because they set the stage for an electric evening," Tech coach Tom Kearly said. "We apologize because we didn't put the icing on the cake with a 'W' and give everyone a great night, but we did play hard until the bitter end."
Michigan Tech senior wide receiver Matt Curtin celebrates after catching one of his school-record four touchdowns in Saturday’s loss to No. 3 Grand Valley State. (DMG photo by David Archambeau)
Tech wideout Matt Curtin caught 11 passes for 190 yards and a school-record four touchdowns in the loss (2-19, 1 TD in the first half), and quarterback Tyler Scarlett bounced back from a 1-for-8 start to complete 29 of 50 passes for 441 yards and five touchdowns.
The teams combined for 1,111 yards of offense (852 through the air on 77 passes, with no interceptions) and went 11 for 11 in red-zone chances.
But it was all Lakers early on in a true tale-of-two-halves affair.
Grand Valley State 13 24 14 0 - 51
Tech 0 7 13 23 - 43
GV Kirk Spencer 2-yard run (Marco Iaderosa kick), 11:08
GV Charles Johnson 11-yard pass from Isiah Grimes (kick failed), 4:32
GV Johnson 1-yard pass from Grimes (Iaderosa kick), 9:19
GV Johnson 56-yard pass from Grimes (Iaderosa kick), 7:49
GV Darryl Pitts 22-yard pass from Grimes (Iaderosa kick), 3:42
MT Matt Curtin 8-yard pass from Tyler Scarlett (Garrett Mead kick), 1:52
GV Iaderosa 37-yard field goal, 0:00
GV Ben Hutchins 10-yard run (Iaderosa kick), 9:40
MT Curtin 15-yard pass from Scarlett (Mead kick), 6:16
GV Hutchins 2-yard run (Iaderosa kick), 3:51
MT Akeem Cason 98-yard kick return (kick failed), 3:35
MT Curtin 20-yard pass from Scarlett (Mead kick), 9:13
MT Curtin 15-yard pass from Scarlett (Scarlett rush), 8:34
MT Pat Carroll 9-yard pass from Scarlett (Curtin pass from Scarlett), 2:45
FIRST DOWNS 26 24
RUSHES-YARDS 47-225 22-34
PASSING YDS 411 441
Passes A-C-I 27-17-0 50-29-0
PLAYS-YARDS 74-636 72-475
Punt Returns-Yards 4-58 0-0
Kickoff Returns-Yards 6-129 7-222
Interception Returns-Yards 0-0 0-0
Punts (Number-Yds) 5-38.4 8-40.4
Fumbles-Lost 3-2 1-1
Penalties-Yards 4-25 6-47
Possession Time 33:28 26:32
Third-Down Conversions 7-14 6-14
Fourth-Down Conversions 1-1 0-0
Sacks by: Number-yards 2-5 0-0
RUSHING: Grand Valley Kirk Spencer 28-136, 1 TD; Ben Hutchins 11-43, 2 TD; Brandan Green 5-32; Billy Seiler 3-14. Michigan Tech Cedrick Barber 10-19; Josh Hauswirth 2-13; Tyler Scarlett 7-10; Akeem Cason 2-(-2).
PASSING: Grand Valley Isiah Grimes 17-27-0-411, 4 TD; Michigan Tech - Scarlett 29-50-0-441, 5 TD.
RECEIVING: Grand Valley Charles Johnson 7-165, 3 TD; Brandan Green 4-71; Jamie Potts 3-90; Darryl Pitts 2-54, 1 TD; Michigan Tech Matt Curtin 11-190, 4 TD; Alex Elsenheimer 6-67; Bryan LaChapelle 5-92; Pat Carroll 3-64, 1 TD.
FUMBLES: Grand Valley Reggie Williams 1-1; Green 1-1; Spencer 1-0; Michigan Tech Scarlett 1-1.
Kirk Spencer scored on a 2-yard run just 3:52 into the game, capping off a GVSU drive that included a 38-yard Spencer rush and a 25-yard completion from QB Isiah Grimes to Jamie Potts for the big-play Lakers.
Then, it quickly became the Charles Johnson show.
GVSU's preseason All-American receiver caught an 11-yard touchdown, a 1-yard touchdown and a 56-yard touchdown in a 7-minute, 43-second span, giving the visitors a 27-0 lead. Darryl Pitts caught yet another touchdown on a 22-yard fade, making it 34-0 with 3:42 before the break.
"We didn't move the ball at all on offense, we had three to four drops, didn't run the football very effectively (outrushed 225-34 yards in the game), then we gave them some easy scores up top," Kearly said. "One of our goals was to limit their big plays, and they had a bunch of them."
Curtin tallied an 8-yard touchdown pass late in the first half and a 15-yard touchdown midway through the third quarter, but GVSU tacked on a Marco Iaderosa 37-yard field goal and a pair of Ben Hutchins rushing touchdowns to make the score 51-14 with 3:51 left.
But, any fans who left the second night game in Sherman Field history early regretted it, as the Huskies flipped the switch on offense.
Akeem Cason ignited any hopes of a comeback with a 98-yard kickoff return touchdown after Hutchins' second TD. Cason also tallied Tech's most recent kickoff return touchdown, a 93-yarder against Northwood on Oct. 23, 2010.
"We'd been saying all day if they keep kicking it to us we're going to bust one," Cason said. "We kept believing that and got great blocks. I cut outside, had two blockers on the kicker, cut back and just had the touchdown to get us back in the game."
At 51-20, a comeback was still a long shot, but Curtin caught his third touchdown, a 20-yarder from Scarlett, with 9:13 left in the fourth quarter; and his fourth, a 15-yarder, just 39 seconds later after a GVSU fumble. After a two-point conversion, Tech was only down two scores.
"We came out and, to our guys' credit, I think we battled extra hard in the second half to get back in the game. We had a shot. That's all we can ask for at the end," said Curtin, whose four receiving touchdowns surpass the previous three-touchdown record held by six other Huskies.
"It's in a losing effort. I'd rather take the win. Scarlett threw some nice balls and the O-line blocked well. It's not just me," he said.
Curtin turned the all-but-impossible into the improbable, but then Pat Carroll put the miraculous within reach with a 9-yard TD catch with 2:45 left.
The crazy comeback took an even crazier turn after Tech blocked a 39-yard field goal attempt and touched the ball on their own 2-yard line with 12 seconds left.
Scarlett connected on an 18-yard pass to Bryan LaChapelle, but the clock hit all zeroes as Scarlett spiked the ball. The Huskies thought they should have another second on the clock, but the referees anticlimactically declared the game over.
"We're disappointed but we should have played a better football game," Kearly said.
Tech (3-1, 3-1 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) will look to get back to its winning ways this Saturday at rival Northern Michigan (1-4, 0-4 GLIAC).