HOUGHTON - The Michigan Tech football team got scorched for 56 points by Ferris State's Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference-leading rushing offense; but the Huskies head back on the road to face the league's best passing attack, Saginaw Valley State.
"It's a completely different team," Tech coach Tom Kearly said. "They're just as lethal but in a different way."
The 5-2 Huskies still control their own destiny for a GLIAC North Division title with games against SVSU (6-2, 5-2 GLIAC), Hillsdale (6-2, 6-1 GLIAC) and Wayne State (5-2, 5-2 GLIAC). The only other team among the GLIAC North Division elite is Grand Valley State, which is also 5-2 in conference play.
"We have to take it one week at a time. We think we have a good chance to make the playoffs if we win out," said senior wide receiver Matt Curtin, who is second in the GLIAC with 111.4 receiving yards per game, and first with 12 touchdown catches (the former school record was nine). "It's going to be a tough test, something I think we can do, but we have to play well, definitely."
Especially against the league's No. 1 passing attack.
As great as Curtin has been, Cardinals junior wide receiver Jeff Janis leads the league with 132.9 receiving yards per game, totaling 1,063 yards in eight games in 67 catches. Granted, he's played one more game than Curtin, but that's 24 more catches and 283 more yards for Janis.
"(Janis) is leading the world I think in receiving," kidded Kearly, "So we know we have our hands full."
Of course a big part of Janis's success is the play of SVSU quarterback Jonathan Jennings, whose 296.5 passing yards and 322.1 total yards per game lead the GLIAC.
"We want to play their pass as best as we can and be really sharp in our coverages," said Tech junior linebacker and L'Anse native Dan Perrault, who is second on the team with 48 tackles. "Hopefully we can get them flustered a little bit and make some plays."
Tech has scored four non-offensive touchdowns this year - a punt return TD, a fumble return TD, a kickoff return TD and a punt block return TD.
Regardless of whether it makes big plays, Tech's D at least has to make some plays after getting lit up for more than 600 yards to Ferris State last week.
"We're just trying to be sound," Kearly said. "We have a lot of young people. These last four games we knew we were going to play some pretty good offensive football teams and that's the case."
Tech's offense hasn't been too bad either.
Quarterback Tyler Scarlett tied a school record with six touchdown passes last week (Steve Short had six vs. Winona State in 2007), and he's currently tied for the season record with 20 TDs (Dan Mettlach had 20 in 2004). He also only has three interceptions on the year.
"We were behind so we had to chuck it around a little more than we had planned," Scarlett said.
Kearly noted the same thing in that the offensive has been statistically impressive, but it has frequently got off to slow starts, demanding a pass-heavy attack late in games.
"We're playing well, but you can't be two or three scores down and throwing all over the county," Kearly said. "You're going to stat out well, but we have to be able to run the football and stay on the field."
The Huskies will need a faster start from its offense and a solid defensive performance if they want to end a five-game losing streak against SVSU, which includes a 44-41 overtime loss last year at Sherman Field. Tech has not won in University Center, Mich., since 1995.
"They're a good football team. Like we've stressed all along, with three weeks to go we have our destiny in our own hands," Kearly said. "If we take care of our business and win, then we're where we want to be when the season started."