Huskies focus on ‘little things’ during bye week

Michigan Tech defensive lineman Austin Schlicht, left, battles University of St. Thomas offensive lineman Garrett Prentis on Sept. 11, 2021, in Houghton, Mich. (David Archambeau/For the Gazette)

The Michigan Tech football team spent the week getting over a disappointing loss a week ago, and preparing for a big test next week.

For the Huskies, as head coach Steve Olson said, it’s back to the little things.

“Well the big thing is you’re just working to get back to fundamentals. We’ll get back to the basics, work on the little things that you need to be good at — little things that you may or may not have made mistakes on during the week.”

The Huskies (1-1) lost to Division I University of St. Thomas 12-9 on Sept. 11 after leading until late in the fourth quarter. The Tommies took the lead in the final minutes and a last-minute Huskies’ drive ended with an interception that sealed their fate.

Luckily for the Huskies, they have a scheduled bye week to get things in order for a Sept. 25 matchup hosting No. 10 Grand Valley State.

The Lakers (1-0) host UW-La Crosse today. They beat Colorado State-Pueblo 34-14 last week. GVSU’s season opener against Edinboro on Sept. 4 was canceled.

The in-season week to week preparation for football teams is partly mired in studying the previous week’s game film and assessing what the team did right and wrong, and incorporating those learning lessons into the next game. The Huskies’ loss to St. Thomas was a bitter one to take after they led all day until it fell apart in the final five minutes.

But Olson said practices during this bye week has been about the little things.

“I think we’ve had a good week of practice, a challenge that always comes that you have to take care of is making sure you have good practices three days in a row,” Olson said. “I do think our kids are practicing well and they’re practicing hard.

“We just have to be sharper at execution, some things take more timing and take a little bit more execution from that standpoint. It’s just a matter of working on those little things and getting back over the hump.”

Red flags

The Michigan Tech offense has seemed almost allergic to the red zone this season. The Huskies have had 129 offensive snaps across two games — just five snaps have come inside the red zone, including four last week against St. Thomas. That was a three-and-out ending with a 25-yard Drew Wyble field goal.

“You just take a look at it, you measure it and say ‘OK, what did we do right?” Olson said. “What did we do wrong? What did we execute? What did we have a chance to execute and maybe missed? What do you got to get better at? So you’re always working on those little things.”

Michigan Tech had a pair of longer scoring plays against Hillsdale in the season opener, a 43-yard pass and 23-yard pass, but have struggled to sustain drives in the opponent’s half of the field. Those struggles won’t suffice against a marquee team like Grand Valley State, and the Huskies’ defense won’t be able to bail out the offense every time.

Expect the Huskies to diversify receiving options against Grand Valley State.

Huskies quarterback Will Ark targeted Jordan Janssen all day against St. Thomas. Janssen had nine catches for 79 yards, far outpacing other receivers. Darius Willis and Jared Smith tied for second-most receiving yards in the game at 15 each.

Janssen also caught seven passes for 115 yards and a touchdown against Hillsdale.

St. Thomas put tighter coverage on Janssen in the second half and especially the fourth quarter. He had one catch for five yards in the fourth, and Ark threw an interception after targeting Janssen in double-coverage.

“(Ark) has a very good understanding of where Jordan’s gonna run his route, when the timing of those routes is going to happen and where to throw the football and how to get it out on time,” Olson said. “So their timing has been very good. And of course, then you look at just the ability to get the ball to others, there’s some playmakers and we got some guys I think have good ability. I still think at some point in time, you’re gonna get Darius Willis to have a breakout game, or Justin Davis. We had Hunter Richards had a really nice game in the first one.”

Bright spots

Special teams keystoned Michigan Tech’s effort against St. Thomas.

The Tommies lined up in the shotgun and quarterback Tommy Dolan attempted to roll out to the right to punt, but senior linebacker Marvin Wright rushed the edge and blocked it. Junior linebacker Fred Kemp scooped the loose ball and ran it 38 yards for the Huskies’ lone touchdown of the day.

St. Thomas scored its only touchdown in the fourth quarter on a fumble recovery in the end zone to tie the game. The Tommies were poised to take the lead with the extra point. But Huskies’ senior defensive lineman Nate LaJoie blocked the point after to keep the game tied.

Michigan Tech’s next offensive drive stalled and went backwards. Then, Drew Wyble’s punt went only 16 yards and set the Tommies up at the Huskies’ 39 with 4:10 remaining in the game. It led to the winning 32-yard field goal by Louis Hyde with 59 seconds remaining.

Lakers at a glance

GVSU’s run defense dominated last week. The Lakers limited Colorado State-Pueblo to just 29 rushing yards on 20 attempts (1.45 yards per carry). By contrast, GVSU rushed 189 yards on 40 carries (4.73 yards) and a pair of TDs.

Colorado State-Pueblo’s offensive production came from the air, with 133 passing yards and a touchdown.

GVSU’s offense outgained Colorado State-Pueblo 347 to 162.

The Lakers’ special teams also made an impact with an 80-yard punt return by Juwan Johnson.

Lakers quarterback Cade Peterson completed 13 of 25 passes and threw for 158 yards. He also led the team with 86 rushing yards on 14 attempts.

The Huskies and Lakers kick off at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 25 at Sherman Field at Kearly Stadium.


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